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The Pope's DJ

On the surface, the story of how Father Eustace Sequeira came to Colorado seems fairly straightforward. His decision to study counseling and psychology at Regis University was influenced by the institution's fine reputation among Jesuits like himself and by the presence in the area of his brother, Everton Sequeira, an investment representative for Edward Jones. But in truth, his route to the St. Pius X Parish in Aurora, his current nesting place, could hardly have been more circuitous. During his 56 years, he's spent time in India, Germany, Zambia and Vatican City, where, from 1988 to 1993, he supervised the Catholic church's radio service for Africa -- just one of many unique jobs in a career that's proved religion and media can mix.

A jovial sort with an infectious laugh, Sequeira calls Coloradans "the loveliest people in the world," which, given his many travels, actually means something. Nonetheless, he doesn't know how long he'll be able to enjoy their company. "I'd like to be in Denver for at least three years, but it depends," he says from the St. Pius campus (where my wife works). "If there's greater need elsewhere, I'll go. If there's something valuable for me to do here, I'll be here. "

Among the prospects locally is a rebirth of Catholic radio on the Denver dial. It's been several years since San Diego-based Catholic Family Radio, a company that attempted to build a commercial network aimed at the two groups mentioned in its name, went belly up, dooming area outlet KKYD-AM/1340 in the process. (The signal was eventually sold to Colorado Public Radio for just over $4 million; it's now the home of KCFR, the news-and-information arm of CPR.) Since then, Catholics with an interest in broadcasting have debated how to resurrect the concept, and upon his arrival in the state a few months back, Sequeira joined the conversation. "The need is there. The problem is, nobody has any money," he says.

Father Eustace Sequeira is ready to heed the Lord's 
call-in about Catholic radio.
Brett Amole
Father Eustace Sequeira is ready to heed the Lord's call-in about Catholic radio.

Not that he's overly concerned about locating dollars. After all, he's learned to trust in providence.

For Sequeira, the roots of this worldview were planted in Bombay, where he was born and raised. Neither of his parents worked for the church; his mother was a teacher, his father a supervisor in the Indian government's ordinance department. However, his family has practiced Catholicism going back 500 years, with many members, including two of his mother's brothers, eventually entering the priesthood. "It was a big sacrifice for my grandfather," Sequeira says. "He didn't expect that to happen."

At first, Sequeira didn't, either. As he came of age, his first love was the radio, particularly when it broadcast Western pop music. He loved the songs of Connie Francis and, of course, Elvis Presley, but probably not with the fervor of his sister. "She named one of her sons Elvis," he says. But sons weren't in the cards for him. As he recalls, "I began to think about becoming a priest when I was sixteen. I thought it would be a good way to live and to serve God."

After two years of novitiate training and the subsequent study of topics ranging from philosophy to Latin, Sequeira recalls, "I met a Zambian Jesuit and thought going to Zambia would help out. So I volunteered to go, and to my surprise, my request was accepted." He arrived in the country in 1968, a few years after the country gained independence, and enrolled at the University of Zambia, studying economics and mathematics by day and teaching adults how to read and write by night. Four years later, after earning his degree at the U of Z, he sought a master's degree in theology at Hochschule St. Georgen, a Jesuit university in Frankfurt -- and in 1976, after being ordained as a priest in Munich the previous year, he returned to Zambia. He split his time between a position as economist with the country's Ministry of Mines and priestly duties for St. Ignatius Church in the capital city of Lusaka until 1980. But a request he received in 1979 had already pointed him in a new direction.

"The diocese needed somebody to run a printing press," Sequeira says. "It had been built by Italian sisters, but no one could run it. They brought in a German master printer, but nothing was happening. So they asked me if I could take it over." Soon after accepting this charge, he discovered how difficult it would be. "In Africa, it's not like the U.S., where you can find somebody to do the job. If you ask someone what is wrong and they come back with a big bill but only tell you why it won't work, you have to be prepared. Management is a much more down-to-earth job."

Improvements were far from instantaneous; Sequeira estimates that it took three years to get the press cranking at full strength. Fortunately, the contraption was among the best in the country, and once it worked the way it should, he had plenty of customers. He wound up subsidizing the publication of religious books with printing jobs for the Zambian government and the nation's airline.

Sequeira's success with the press made him seem like a media expert in the eyes of the church hierarchy. That's why, in 1988, he was invited to move to Vatican City and take over the Africa service for Vatican Radio, a broadcasting arm known on its Web site, www.VaticanRadio.org, as "the Pope's voice."

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