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Record, The (Hackensack, NJ)

Lending a voice to a 'sleeping giant'
Evangelist is waking up area Catholics

Published: December 18, 2003
In his 1990 encyclical, "The mission of the Redeemer," Pope John Paul II proclaimed that "the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization." Ty Agosta is one Catholic who was inspired by the pope's challenge.

"I wanted to use the talents God gave me to bring out the wisdom and beauty of the church," says the Hackensack resident. "I have the gift of tongues - not 'speaking in tongues,'-" he clarifies with a laugh, "just the gift of gab."

Agosta has put his gift to use in radio and public speaking.

He was the producer and on-air host of "The Catholic Hour," broadcast locally on Jukebox Radio, 103.1 FM, for 2 1/2 years. A year ago, the station shut down.

"That was bad timing," he says, "because my show was being considered for syndication on Catholic radio stations in other parts of the country."

The show's format - guest speakers and a call-in question-and-answer feature - enabled him to fill a void in the Catholic radio market.

"I'd get calls and e-mails from Catholics thanking me for finally making the Catholic voice heard. After the show was off the air, people told me how much they missed it and wanted it back."

Currently, Agosta's "gift of tongues" gets a workout through a busy speaking schedule. He addresses rosary societies, the Knights of Columbus, communion breakfasts, conferences, and workshops around North Jersey. His topics range from "Proud to Be a Catholic" and "Jesus, The Greatest Gift" to "Angels and Saints." One of his most requested talks is on the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom he has a personal devotion.

Agosta's non-profit Spread the Word Foundation supports his goal of "sharing, explaining, and defending the Catholic faith, promoting Christian unity, and bringing the fullness of the Christian faith to others."

Witnessing to his faith has been the substructure of Agosta's life. A lifelong parishioner of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Wood-Ridge, he served as its organist from 1974 - when he was only 11 - to 1998. He's been a member of its liturgy committee and its parish council, a youth minister, and a lector for 22 years. He has a degree in religious studies from Felician College and soon will pursue a master's in theology from Franciscan University.

Agosta, an insurance agent by trade, is hammering out the details of a dual ministry with Anthony Liguori, a friend who is studying for the diaconate in the Paterson diocese. Their presentations will feature Agosta at the keyboard, Liguori singing, and a "mix of talk and testimony."

But he's concerned that Catholics are still underserved on the airwaves. "Protestant radio has about 1,600 stations nationwide, but there are fewer than 80 Catholic stations, even though there are more than 66 million Catholics in the country."

To start rectifying this imbalance, Agosta is an advocate of the latest technology, satellite radio. Ave Maria Communications (WDEO) of Ann Arbor, Mich., has applied to XM Radio to be that satellite radio provider's first Catholic station.

"XM has more than 1 million subscribers and is growing rapidly," says Agosta. "Catholics are the sleeping giant. They need to contact XM and let them know they'll subscribe if Catholic radio is part of the programming."

Agosta didn't shy away from any topics on his own show. He and his guests clarified Church teaching on abortion and celibacy, explored the less religious aspects of the Crusades, and addressed the pedophile priest scandal.

On that last issue, he says, "the recent scandal gives those not deeply rooted in faith an excuse to leave the church, when in reality it's exactly the time they need the church. As St. Francis de Sales [1567-1622] said, those who allow scandals to destroy their faith are guilty of spiritual suicide by cutting off their life with Christ."

Among his guests were personalities known well to viewers of EWTN, the global Catholic television network, including the Rev. Benedict Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and author Dr. Scott Hahn.

The program also showcased celebrities like Dion DiMucci. The singer-songwriter - whose career began more than 40 years ago with the teen-idol Belmonts - told listeners about his return to Catholicism. Although duly baptized and confirmed, the Bronx native led a rowdy, street-wise youth. In 1968, his father-in-law helped pull him off a self-destructive path of substance abuse and pointed him toward the church. Nowadays, Scripture study and Mass attendance are as much a part of DiMucci's life as are his concert tours.

"One of the perks of being a Catholic radio show host was the many friends and contacts I've made," says Agosta. "I'd call up Catholic authors and ask about something I read in their books. Or I'd be at Barnes & Noble and pick up an interesting book and say, 'I've got to get him on my show!' I was never turned down."

Agosta will pursue any means to promote the Catholic faith.

"For the church to be at 'full throttle,'-" he says, "it's essential that the whole church, religious and laity alike, from top to bottom, work together to build up the kingdom of God and fully realize its mission."

Contact Agosta at (201) 933-8967.

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PHOTO - PETER MONSEES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER - Ty Agosta, seen here addressing a Communion breakfast in Wood-Ridge, uses his "gift of gab" to bring people closer to Catholicism.

Copyright (c) 2003 North Jersey Media Group Inc.