October 15, 2021

Retiring Catholic radio station manager honored for decades of service

Jim Ganley, the retiring general manager and president of Catholic Radio Indy, stands on Sept. 21 in the station’s studio in Indianapolis that has now been named after him. He has helped lead the station since it went on the air in 2004. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Jim Ganley, the retiring general manager and president of Catholic Radio Indy, stands on Sept. 21 in the station’s studio in Indianapolis that has now been named after him. He has helped lead the station since it went on the air in 2004. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

For 17 years, Jim Ganley and his co-workers at Catholic Radio Indy have been told by countless listeners how the faith-filled programming of its three FM radio stations have brought them to the Church, renewed their faith and assisted them to discern God’s vocation in their lives.

Ganley helped get Catholic Radio Indy on the air when it launched in 2004. Now, at 75, and close to retirement as its general manager and president, he reflected on his last job in his 55-year broadcasting career.

“I always had in the back of my mind that if there was a way to take what I’d learned in the broadcast industry and get back to applying that to the mission of the Church, that would really be cool,” Ganley said.

Tears began to flow in gratitude for the opportunity given to him by God’s providence in 2004 to begin an on-air ministry.

“It was an ultimate goal that was forgotten for 40 years—until it all came to fruition in Catholic radio,” Ganley said. “That’s where it began. It worked out well.”

‘Radio was the thing’

As a youth growing up in Minneapolis in 1950s and 1960s, Ganley’s heart was filled with two great desires: spreading the Gospel as a “lay Apostle” and radio. It just took him a few decades to bring them together.

“When I was 10 years old or whatever, I decided that radio was the thing to do,” Ganley recalled. “I got a little recorder down in the basement, a little cheap microphone and played radio in the basement.

“I was a semi-permanent fixture in some of the local radio stations, just trying to watch, to see what they were doing. Maybe they’ll come out and talk to me. I was just fascinated with it.”

When he graduated from Benilde Catholic High School in St. Louis Park, Minn., in 1964, Ganley’s desire to be a missionary came to the surface.

“I wanted to go to Africa or South America, some place really exotic,” he recalled. “I found that, while the Church has lots of missionaries in those places, they want doctors, lawyers and engineers. High school graduates weren’t high on their list.”

Ganley ended up spending a year as a volunteer at a Catholic college in British Columbia.

“We roofed houses, slaughtered hogs, cleared land with big bulldozers, drove monster dump trucks,” he said. “At the end of that, I thought it was nice and could do it for the rest of my life, except that it was a volunteer position. I wasn’t married, but the plan was to get married and have a family.”

So, returning to Minnesota, Ganley embarked in 1966 on a career in radio and television broadcasting, taking him to jobs in four states. He also married his wife Sharon a year later. Together, they are the parents of three children and the grandparents of five.

Sharon knew well his desire to share the Gospel with others. “He said at the beginning of our marriage, ‘Once the kids are grown, I want to get very much involved [in the Church] like I was when I got of high school.’ I remembered that over all those years.”

Although Ganley originally hoped to make a career as an on-air personality, he soon discovered that he’d have to learn all aspects of the broadcasting business to provide for his family. So, through the years, he also worked in sales, engineering, program managing and as a station manager. He was even part owner of a station for a while.

That broad range of experience would come in handy later.

‘It was in God’s hands’

Around 2001, Ganley was working for a radio station in Terre Haute when he and Sharon visited friends in Indianapolis. After a Mass they attended at St. Lawrence Church, they heard Bob Teipen speak to the congregation about his desire to start a Catholic radio station in the city.

Ganley and Teipen spoke briefly afterward and exchanged business cards.

“As we were coming home, I said, ‘Remember what you told me so many years ago. Do you really want to do this again?’ ” Sharon said. “He said, ‘Yes. But it’ll take a lot of sacrifice and time.’ And I said, ‘Well, isn’t that what we’re on Earth for?’ ”

That sacrifice wouldn’t come for about three years when Teipen was ready in 2004 to lease an FM radio station and knew, with no knowledge of or experience in radio, he needed help. That’s when he found Ganley’s business card, gave him a call and had a meeting with him.

“They were flat starting from scratch,” Ganley said. “They didn’t have any staff. They didn’t have any listeners at that point. They didn’t have any budget to promote with. It was going to be an uphill thing, but you’ve got to get started.”

Even though the odds of success were slim, Ganley took the reins of the fledgling station and worked hard with a lot of help from Sharon to get Catholic Radio Indy on the air—a decision for which Teipen remains grateful to this day.

“He took a major risk in joining Catholic Radio Indy 17 years ago because there was no assurance of success,” Teipen said. “If we had failed, Jim would have been out of a job.”

Sharon recalled the many difficult days early on when the future of Catholic Radio Indy was cloudy. She also remembered the steadfast faith in God she and Jim shared.

“It was in God’s hands,” she said. “I followed Jim and did what he needed. There was prayer. God was in this the whole way.

“We figured that if this was where we were supposed to be, it would work out. If not, then we’d go do something else. But we always knew that it was going to work.”

And it did work. During the past 17 years, Catholic Radio Indy has purchased its station, is now broadcasting on three frequencies in central Indiana (89.1, 90.9 and 98.3 FM), producing local programming, streaming live online and creating podcasts.

“I am awed by the plan that God had in store,” said Teipen. “There is no way that I could have pulled off the operation of the station without Jim Ganley’s support.”

‘We’ve become a real entity here’

As he eases into retirement while training Gordon Smith, Catholic Radio Indy’s new general manager, Ganley is hopeful about the future of Catholic broadcasting in central Indiana.

“First of all, we have to stay loyal to the magisterium of the Church,” he said. “That’s the big thing. Then, stay broad enough to appeal to a wide audience. It’s a real challenge.”

But even with the expanding number of options for people to receive content, Ganley is confident that Catholic radio will remain strong.

“Radio is most likely going to be there for the long run,” he said. “People like the one-on-one relationship. When you’re in your car listening to somebody, the person on the radio isn’t talking to everybody out there in radio land. They’re talking to you. It’s the relationship that keeps people with radio. That’s why we try to have so many local elements on here.”

The hard work that Ganley did to put Catholic Radio Indy on strong footing was recognized at the station’s annual fundraising dinner on Aug. 24 when it was announced that its studio would be named in his honor.

The Indiana Broadcasters Association (IBA), which represents almost 300 radio and TV broadcasters in the state, is giving its Tom Severino Leadership Award to Ganley at an award luncheon on Oct. 27.

Dave Arland, the IBA’s executive director, noted that the award is given annually to a person or a group of people who have given long service to broadcasting in Indiana.

Describing Ganley as “the ideal candidate” for the award because of his decades of work in broadcasting, Arland said that the honor is also a tribute to the place that Catholic Radio Indy has made for itself among the larger broadcasting community in the state.

“Catholic Radio Indy is a good example of innovation [in broadcasting],” he said. “It’s a salute, a tip of the hat to an outfit that is relatively new on the scene.”

“It’s nice to be recognized, although that’s not why you do the work,” Ganley said of the award. “If I had not been at Catholic Radio [Indy], I would probably not be getting the award. We’ve become a real entity here.”

(For more information about Catholic Radio Indy and to listen to its programming online, visit catholicradioindy.org.)

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