'Young Soul--Alma Joven' is on a mission to touch young people's hearts and souls

In photo above, Cecilia Aguilar-Clark and Juan Carlos Paredes are co-hosts of "Young Soul -- Alma Joven" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Radio Santisimo Sacramento.

It’s 4:30 p.m. on Monday and Juan Carlos Paredes and Cecilia Aguilar-Clark, co-hosts of Radio Santisimo Sacramento’s (1240 AM) popular bilingual “Spanglish” show, “Young Soul-Alma Joven,” are ready to go on the air. It reaches a radio audience from Fairfield to Yuba City, Jackson to Woodland, each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is also broadcast worldwide on the Alabama-based Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). It’s also aired on Facebook Live.

They describe their show, which most often features guests on various topics related to faith and culture, as well as social issues, as a “conversation” that’s lively, upbeat, and not boring for listeners.

“I picture our show as if we are at a coffee shop, all around a table, and we’re talking about our faith seriously and light-heartedly,” says Juan Carlos, who is 33 and a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Sacramento. He’s been one of the hosts of the show since it debuted in May 2012. “We are having conversations people have and they happen to be Christ-centered. If our show was boring, no one would listen.

“We do discuss serious topics, such as suicide, race, abortion, and many others, but we share personally and we keep it upbeat. God has given talents to all of us and I think we put our talents to work when we are on the mic,” he adds. “That’s what I enjoy and it’s the reason I’m still on this show, because I never know who is listening. We pray before each show that we will deliver a message for whomever needs the message that day.”

Cecilia notes that often on the show there is a priest, deacon or religious sharing the microphone, “so we have someone on air who is guiding us spiritually,” she says. “It’s important to have that theological content, as we are formed in our faith and knowledgeable, but we are not experts on every faith topic.”

While they have travelled different spiritual paths, both have been with the region’s first-Spanish language Catholic station since its fledgling beginnings and launch on air in October 2011. They started as two of the station’s indispensable volunteers, trying to touch the hearts and souls of Sacramento-area Spanish speaking Catholics, as well as those who’ve strayed from the faith.

After the show’s debut on Wednesday nights at 5 p.m. in May 2012, it was picked up by EWTN and began being transmitted worldwide in May 2013, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

A native of El Salvador, Juan Carlos was raised in a devout Catholic family. When he came to the United States at age 19, he admits he spent much of his time in bars and clubs, abusing alcohol and drugs, and was away from his faith. After moving to Sacramento to live near one of his sisters and start a new life, he attended a SEARCH retreat for young adults in Orland in 2007, and that led him to the sacrament of reconciliation and back to practicing his Catholic faith. “Since that moment, everything I did before was wiped away,” he says. “I keep moving forward. I still struggle and have things I need to work on in my personal life, but every time I fall, I get up as quick as I can.”

Besides Radio Santisimo, he has been involved in many young adult ministries in the diocese, including ON FIRE, in music groups and choirs, and in the charismatic renewal.

Cecilia, who grew up in Mexico, moved to the United States when she was 18, has been married to her husband, Shane, for two years. They recently celebrated the birth of a daughter. They met at Radio Santisimo after he converted to Catholicism and came to the radio station for a visit. Cecilia has been a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish since 2009, involved in the young adults group and many other ministries.

A recent graduate of Sacramento City College in communications, she started producing Alma Joven after becoming involved with Radio Santisimo in 2011. She began with a segment for young people on the station’s morning show, “Café, Pan y Fe” (“Coffee, Bread and Faith), which airs between 7 and 8 a.m., and is hosted by general manager Lorena Albarran, who has been with Radio Santisimo since it began in 2011. Other hosts of the show include Father Francisco Hernandez, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish; Father Rodolfo Llamas, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish; and laymen Luis Mendez and Genaro Gonzalez.

Juan Carlos and Cecilia say although their target audience is young adults, they know their listeners are of various ages. Since Alma Joven is the station’s only show for young adults “we might not have a big audience yet, but listeners tell me ‘I’m not a young person but I like to listen to you because you have lots of energy,’” Cecilia notes.

Young adults are on their minds when they are on the air. “We have to be merciful,” Juan Carlos reflects. “It’s not that we have to be so careful what we say, but sometimes with young adults it’s not what we say, but the way we say it. It can either bring them back to the church or turn them away from the church for a long time. We try to be merciful, while at the same time sticking with the truth of our faith.”

Cecilia adds: “I try to put myself in the shoes of young adults, who often have many questions. On our show we have the chance to say that being holy – something we all strive for – is not impossible. It’s not something so high that just a few can do it. We try always to develop the message that God loves just as you are and whatever your job or vocation -- it doesn’t matter if you are working in construction, as a nurse or a housekeeper.”

Both Cecilia and Juan Carlos say hosting Alma Joven has helped with their own spiritual formation.  “Being the host in some way makes me a bit of a public figure, so I have to be mindful of that,” Juan Carlos says.  “I personally enjoy being able to be myself, to express my faith in many ways. I happily enjoy my vocation as a single person. Even when I am sad, the show helps me to find peace in my heart and I know it is from the Lord.”

Cecilia notes: “The radio has been there for me when I’ve had some low moments spiritually. We all know we have those at times. A few years ago I was spiritually going through a difficult moment, but to know that I had the show and to talk about my faith was incredible in helping me through it.”

Juan Carlos points out a misconception among people, including youth and young adults, “that the Catholic Church is here to judge people and criticize them,” he says. “People think the church is here to punish, that it’s just a bunch of rules.” At a recent event called “Freedom to Love,” sponsored by Radio Santisimo for about 200 teens ages 14-17, he says “many of the kids, probably 75 percent, were hearing about God’s love and how to love in a Catholic way, and learning about chastity, for the first time. That’s a message they don’t often hear.”

Lorena says programming for youth and young adults is a challenge for all radio stations, “because young people do not listen to AM.” She knows that by broadcasting Alma Joven on Facebook Live and other social media channels, including YouTube, that Alma Joven reaches a broader audience. “People who listen to radio are sometimes young adults with families and they give this information to other young people about retreats and different activities,” Lorena says.

Since the majority of Catholic Latino youth in the diocese are born in the United States, a long-term goal is to reach to those under age 18, says Lorena, who recently earned a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Santa Clara University. “We realize now that teenagers are the crucial age,” she says. “That is when they are staying with or leaving their faith, not the church. At that age they are critical of what the church is doing. They are exploring their ideas of God and justice. We are keeping formation and education in the forefront and making this more intentional in our programming.”

Radio Santisimo is exploring new and creative ways to provide significant points of contact for youth and young adults with the church. That is why Alma Joven takes into account language, Latin culture and race, Lorena notes. “We’ve had to consider the great differences that exist among the Latin American countries themselves, as well as differences in education, cultural, social and family situations. We have young hosts from different Latin American cultures, including El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. When they are together they speak “Spanglish” to feel comfortable and communicate with their peers and audience.”

Juan Carlos concludes that Alma Joven “helps us to speak louder than the world outside, which can have many conflicting messages.”

 “The world outside is speaking louder than Christ, so we have to speak loud also,” he says. “It’s important for us to practice the sacraments and be involved in our faith. People ask me many, many times, why do you smile? It’s because of Christ, I answer. By speaking and by all our actions we need to tell people we are Catholic, and just by seeing our example, they may follow along. So we always speak the Gospel, speak it loud, and live our faith. For all of us who participle in Alma Joven, that’s what we do.”

Learn more at http://www.radiosantisimosacramento.com.


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