By MAUREEN SMITH, Special to the Bulletin | Published February 20, 2020 | En Español
LILBURN—It would seem no one at Nuestra Fe knew what they were getting into when they agreed to help a fledgling Spanish-language radio station tucked into the choir loft of the chapel at Our Lady of the Americas Mission in Lilburn, but that’s a good thing. If they had known, Nuestra Fe might not be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The station, a project founded by former auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama, runs entirely on volunteer efforts.
Bishop Zarama wanted to establish an outreach to Latino families who might not be able to get to a church every day. The effort is still sponsored by the archdiocese.
A few months into the new venture, the bishop found Cucho Garcia, a retired executive with a passion for his Catholic faith.
“I had a corporate background so they wanted me to bring some structure. I never thought I would be on the air. I thought I would deal with the financials and that kind of thing. But, little by little, as time has gone by—here we are 10 years later,” said Garcia. A native Puerto Rican, Garcia hosts a show at noon every day, leads the fundraising efforts for the station and advocates tirelessly for Nuestra Fe.
Bishop Zarama was later called to serve as the Bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina.
“I am so proud of the great work of the people of Nuestra Fe and feel blessed to have seen the growth of the radio program over ten years. Hearing a familiar voice from your old home and feeling that you have a voice in your new home is important for everyone. Most important, this has been a wonderful way to help the people hear God’s voice in their daily lives,” said Bishop Zarama.
The original vision was to have all locally-produced content on a broadcast channel. The volunteers got creative when money ran short. There are live shows daily, but most of the content goes out on the internet and social media. This format has actually helped the station reach more people than ever before. Their Facebook following hit 26,000 in 2019.
Different priests of the archdiocese stop by the station almost every day to offer a reflection on the daily Gospel readings and answer questions from listeners. Volunteer hosts answer phones and read comments and questions as they come in on a Facebook live feed.
Hopes for expansion
Prayer is a big part of all the shows. People call in and ask for prayers during the noon show and during an afternoon rosary.
Marcela Galindo has been on-air for more than eight years.
“We hear from people that try to kill themselves or sometimes they want to have an abortion or get a divorce or whatever, so we can see the needs of the people. There are a lot of people with depression and I think listening to the program helps the people to grow and to know that it doesn’t matter what happens outside, they can have a really big love—that is the love of God,” she said.
Galindo laughs when asked how she got involved in the station.
“Maybe about eight and a half or nine years ago, Cucho invited me to the radio. He said I was just going to answer the phone calls because they have been receiving a lot of phone calls and I said, ‘OK, I can do that.’ I had never sat in front of a microphone in a radio station. … So, the surprise when I arrived was that I was sitting in front of the microphone and they start asking me things. The next day it was the same thing, and the third day, I said, ‘Cucho, what happened, tell me the truth!’”
Despite her initial misgivings, Galindo has grown into her role and seems comfortable on air.
“Marcela always treats people with a lot of familiarity,” said Garcia. “Even if she doesn’t know you and you say ‘my name is Jean,’ she will say, ‘Oh, hi, Jeanie!’ and treat you like you are immediately friends.”
Her co-host has a talent for comfort, Garcia added.
“Marisol (Perez) has, in my opinion, the gift of making you feel better, giving you a spiritual massage and making you feel better,” he said.
Perez said she was inspired by her parish to volunteer.
“We had a Pentecost retreat in June in the parish and the priest asked us what gift were we going to give the Lord, the church, during that time of the year. After that, Cucho invited me to the radio show for the same reason he invited Marcela, to answer the phone. Now you know how the story ends. That’s how I stayed without knowing I was going to be here for so many years,” said Perez. “I started falling in love with the project, really falling in love. I realized all the good it brings to the community, especially the Hispanic community, who has so many needs and is missing family affection, and you can embrace them through faith,” she added.
Both Galindo and Perez believe in the mission of the station and hope to see it expand and grow. Listeners can find Nuestra Fe on Facebook and online at www.nuestra-fe.org. The station rebroadcasts the handful of live shows to fill the rest of their airtime. In fact, they use feedback from their listeners to produce a pre-recorded weekend show on topics currently impacting their community.
“Because we saw the need of callers who have problems with their teenage children, marital problems, addiction issues, that is the reason why we created the program “En Familia con Nuestra Fe” (As a Family with Our Faith), which airs on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. It is a prerecorded program and we cover those kinds of topics. It really has been very helpful for the community, very helpful. We have touched on family issues, addictions, many things,” explained Perez.
Garcia hopes to use this anniversary year as a way to raise both money and awareness about Nuestra Fe.
“I don’t know if my dream is God’s dream, but my dream is to have a regular radio station, 24-hours a day, 365-days a year. That’s what we have always wanted. I know nothing is impossible for God, but the financial side is a reality and that’s what needs to be overcome for that,” said Garcia.