20 Years of Bringing Christ to the World: Morning Air

You read that correctly. Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the longest-running network show on Relevant Radio, Morning Air.

Through these past two decades, the show has gone through many changes and transformations. Currently hosted by John Morales, the show was previously hosted by Jeff Cavins, Sean Herriott, and John Harper, the latter of whom still regularly appears on Relevant Radio as a guest for The Drew Mariani Show. Marty Jury, an engineer who has been with the company from the beginning, even used to be a producer for the show.

But through all the changes, the core purpose of Morning Air has always remained the same: to be an inspiring, informative, joyful, and family-friendly way to start your day! John Morales is flanked by co-hosts Glen Lewerenz, who has been a part of Morning Air for 19 years, Sarah Tafoya, and producer Gabriela Burke. Together, they make every Relevant Radio listener’s morning informative, entertaining, and faith-filled.

In anticipation of such a momentous milestone, I sat down with John Morales and Glen Lewerenz to take a look back at the most memorable parts of their time on the show, including their favorite guests, the most life-changing moments, and what Morning Air means to them, to the company, and to the listeners around the world.

  1. When did you get started on Morning Air? And what made want to become a part of Relevant Radio in the first place?

John: I got started with Morning Air from the very beginning. In fact, I was there the day that the light switch went on, the day that the red light went on, and for the first moment on the air: 7AM Central Time on Relevant Radio on April 21st, 2003. It was Morning Air with Jeff Cavins, a day I will never forget.

And how did I get involved with Relevant Radio? Well, it all happened in the summer of 2002. One day, Jeff Cavins called me, and he was someone I had met as a guest on his previous show on EWTN, Life on the Rock. I had been praying at Marytown asking God, “Now what?”, and Jeff called me and invited me to be a part of this new Catholic radio network. So, I am perpetually and forever grateful to Jeff Cavins.

Glen: Relevant Radio was new at the time.  It was a chance to do Christian Radio.  I started as a fill-in news and sports anchor the first year but have been a regular part of the show for almost 20 years.

2. In your eyes, how has the show evolved over these past two decades? Compared to the purpose of the show at its inception, what is the goal of Morning Air? Has it changed? 

John: The original plan for Morning Air and Relevant Radio was, “Bridging the gap between faith and everyday life.” The goal of the show from the very beginning was to help everyday Catholics learn about their Catholic faith. So many Catholics just weren’t properly catechized. They weren’t up to speed, they weren’t educated, and they needed to understand that everything we do can be connected to our Catholic Faith.

When Morning Air first launched in 2003, we were on only 9 stations primarily in the Midwest. 20 years later, Morning Air is now a national show and Relevant Radio is now broadcasting on over 210 stations coast to coast and around the world thanks to the RelevantRadio.com website and the mobile App. The one thing that continues to be amazing since day one is the Relevant Radio Family, the best listeners in the world.

Many of the goals that existed for Morning Air in the early days, and for Relevant Radio for that matter, have become a reality. So we went from “Bridging the gap between faith and everyday life” to “Bringing Christ to the world through the media”. It’s all about Jesus Christ. Everything we do, everything we talk about, everything somehow is related to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Glen: Morning Air and Relevant Radio’s goal at the beginning was to bridge the gap between faith and everyday life and to help re-energize lukewarm Catholics.  I like to think we still can do that.  We’ve had some great hosts over the years as well in Jeff Cavins, Sean Herriott and John Harper.  We’re still rollin’ with old pro, John Morales, and the faithful and funny Sarah Tafoya.

3. Who was your favorite Morning Air guest of all time? Why?

John: It’s extremely difficult to answer that one. I would have to say probably the most consequential interview that I ever did – something I had no idea about at the time – was my interview with Fr. Francis Hoffman (Fr. Rocky), and he went by Fr. Frank Hoffman back in those days. That happened in December of 2003 in anticipation of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

I had met Fr. Rocky at a Men’s Morning of Recollection through Opus Dei, and I thought to myself, “This guy is great! He should be on the radio.” And so I approached him, and he told me he couldn’t do it because he was busy as the chaplain of Northridge Prep, but he invited me to his office to do a recorded interview. And I went there and interviewed Fr. Rocky. The rest is history.

Really, when I look back at it in terms of guests, I just feel so blessed. We’ve had so many fantastic contributors to Morning Air over the years like Mike Sweeney, Harrison Butker, Coach K, Dave Durand, Fr. James Kubicki, Fr. Bob Pagliari, and so many more.

Glen: Morgan Freeman is probably the most famous guest I have interviewed.  I think my favorite is social worker Kim Morgan.  A Catholic mom with great faith and a great sense of humor.

4. What was the most life-changing moment that you experienced because of Morning Air and/or Relevant Radio?

John: There’s actually two of them. When Teresa Tomeo was actually a part of the Morning Air show in the early going, one day she said, “Hey ladies, John Morales is single!” Well would you believe it: my wife Cindy was listening that day, and I had, ironically, met her a few months ago, she gave me her number, and I never called her. She heard the interview that day and she said, “Hey, that’s the guy I met!” Fast-forward to October 31st, 2003 at the Festival of Faith down at Navy Pier. Sure enough, I ran into Cindy that weekend and we reconnected. Fr. Rocky gave us spiritual direction, and married us about a year and a half later.

And then a few years later, I got a phone call in September of 2007 from my dear friend and former Relevant Radio host, Sheila Liaugminas, asking me, “Are you guys still interested in an adoption?” And sure enough, that was the phone call that was responsible for my son Joseph Dominic. We adopted him shortly thereafter. He was a gift from heaven after praying at the tomb of St. John Paul II in Rome.

Glen: I joined the Catholic Church due to what I learned from working at Relevant Radio.

5. What does Relevant Radio and Morning Air mean to you? Why is this 20th anniversary such a big deal? Why do people around the world gravitate to this kind of show?  

John: Relevant Radio has been such a big part of my life, and Morning Air specifically. I really am living a dream. How else could I look at it? Because of Relevant Radio, I have my wife and my son. After spending all those years in the mainstream media as a sports reporter and anchor, and also in the pro-life movement, I’ve come full circle, back to where it all started: at Relevant Radio. It is a joy to be able to bring Christ to the world through the media. I know I’m touching lives.

Glen: It’s a great privilege to share the faith on the radio every day.  And as former boss Rob Moore once said, radio years are like dog years.  So, twenty years is a big deal.

Morning Air has changed the lives of so many people, and it’s no wonder why. Just in the past twelve months, John, Glen, and Sarah have had the opportunities to host the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, Harrison Butker, Philip Rivers, Rebecca Kiessling, Mike Sweeney, Paula Umana, Fr. Casey Cole, Mark Wahlberg, and to hear their testimonies. Our amazing Morning Air hosts and producers, our guests, and their stories are having a daily impact on our listeners, and we receive proof of that every single day.

“Dear Mr. Morales, I used to hear you on Relevant Radio during a very formative stage of my growing interest in the Catholic Faith and you made such a difference in my life. I thank God I was listening one morning when you read the sixth chapter of John. I had never in my protestant life heard that chapter read with such meaning. It was simply not part of my worldview. After what you read, I was never the same… I thank you so much for believing in your faith, your God, enough to serve Him and us so well and with such heart.” – Jennifer, August 2, 2007

Jennifer called John back this year, sixteen years after that email, to tell him that she had been baptized into the Catholic Faith, and it all stemmed from that fateful day when John opened the Bible to John, Chapter 6. Relevant Radio, Morning Air, and all of our shows and employees are changing the lives of people across the world. This anniversary is a milestone, a testament to our growth, and an affirmation that the word of God is not falling on deaf ears.

As we take this poignant look back at the way that Morning Air has influenced Relevant Radio and the industry, we also look forward to its bright future and the special ways in which the show team will continue to bring Christ to the world through the media.

To hear a very special broadcast of the 20th Anniversary of Morning Air that will feature past hosts, producers, special guests, and all-time highlights, tune in to Relevant Radio tomorrow, April 21st from 5am – 8am CT, or catch the podcast afterward at RelevantRadio.com/Morning.

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.