In a career spanning more than five decades, he’d never filled out a job application or dealt with a human resources department.
“In radio, if they need you and you sound good, you’re on the next day,” Michael Dixon said of his years at CBS Radio and other outlets. For the last 10 years, Dixon has been the host of The Bishop’s Hour, a weekly, one-hour program that delves into the Catholic faith, featuring guests who explore issues of interest to the faithful, and providing a medium for Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix to impart a message to his flock.
“Michael has done a great job in helping us engage our culture and our faithful,” Bishop Olmsted said of Dixon’s tenure. “When we look at culture we can either flee it or curse it, or we can engage and try to heal it. And I think that’s the way the show was aimed — at helping to engage and educate and heal the culture.”
Beginning Oct. 3, Jennifer Ellis and Andrea Boring will become the new hosts of The Bishop’s Hour. Both are wives and mothers who work for the Diocese of Phoenix’s Office of Communications. Ellis has been with the program since its inception as its producer and with the diocese since 2002. She is a wife and mom of three.
“I would have never dreamed that when I started working for The Catholic Sun 17 years ago that my work would evolve into producing and then one day hosting a radio show,” Ellis said. “What’s been great about working with Michael is that I’ve really learned radio well because of his experience and his professionalism,” Ellis said.
Boring, who holds a degree in law and has a background in website design and restaurant management, is also a mother of five, including two sets of twin boys and has worked behind the scenes of The Bishop’s Hour for three years.
“Michael Dixon was amazing for so many years and now you’re going to have two moms who have a different perspective on things, from our own life experiences and our own faith journeys,” Boring said.
Bishop Olmsted noted that throughout Dixon’s hosting of the program, he helped introduce listeners to knowledgeable guests. “He’s had some excellent people on,” Bishop Olmsted said, “and because he’s been involved with media so long, he’s aware of some topics of great interest.
“He had standards that he came with already. He gave us a sense that The Bishop’s Hour was one of real quality and he knew where it should go. He was right and he made good judgements in that.”
Dixon said he has cherished getting to know Bishop Olmsted through the show and the many conversations they’ve had on the air through the years.
“I was very keen on trying to make theology accessible to everyone,” Dixon said. The structure of the program allowed for a wide breadth of topics over the years and the challenge was to find guests who were both qualified and available. He would spend four to five hours each week preparing for the show.
“My first choice was always to get a priest on to talk and Jennifer wisely pointed out that we had people at the diocese who could make very good contributions to the program by virtue of what they were doing and how they were living,” Dixon said.
Looking back over more than 500 shows with two guests each, Dixon said it’s hard to pinpoint any one guest in particular as most memorable, although Cardinal Edward Michael Egan stands out in his mind. The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration also struck a chord with Dixon when they came into the studio each year to speak of their annual Nun Run and other topics such as vocations.
“The place lit up when they would come into the studio because they were so full of happiness and joy and love,” Dixon said.
He also recalled the many award-winning musicians who were guests on The Bishop’s Hour, including Tim and Julie Smith, Ike Ndolo, Jaime Cortez, and two Catholic crooners who sang for popes: Matt Maher and Tom Booth.
“It was wonderful when we had the musicians on. We didn’t just do Brainiac kinds of programs. We tried to do things that were warm and human,” Dixon said.
Now, with Ellis and Boring set to take on the show, Bishop Olmsted said that although Dixon will be missed, the future looks bright. “I’m excited about it,” he said. “I think it will be helpful to have the feminine perspective.”
The Bishop’s Hour, he said, has allowed him to fulfill his role as teacher but it’s also helped mothers and fathers, the first teachers of their children, to fulfill their roles as well.
“That’s always been a high priority for me and it’s one of the things I most pleased about. In the last 10 years I think that we’ve done a lot to help our families and our parents to be more confident in finding resources so they can fulfill their role which is so vital,” Bishop Olmsted said.
Ellis said listeners can expect some differences in The Bishop’s Hour once she and Boring take up the microphones. Bishop Olmsted’s message will play at the top of the program and there will be one guest per show, rather than two.
“One thing I’m really excited about is getting into Catholic social teaching,” Ellis said. Sr. Mary Angela Alexander, R.S.M., the director of Catholic Social Teaching for the Phoenix Diocese, will be a regular on the show, as will Cande de Leon, executive director of the Office of Mission Advancement; Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference; and Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life.
Importantly, The Bishop’s Hour will also feature Catholic news.
“With the absence of The Catholic Sun as a newspaper we really have a news hole that needs to be filled for the diocese,” Ellis said.
As she looks back over the last 10 years, she said she’s learned something new with every show. From programs that explored The 10 Commandments in depth to Bishop Olmsted’s revelation that he made a promise to himself when he was ordained that he would “never shy away from the hard things” when making a decision, Ellis said the program has fulfilled its mission to inform and inspire.
“Be sure to subscribe to the Bishop’s Hour on our podcast channel so that if you miss it live on Relevant Radio, you can be notified when a new episode is ready for download,” Boring said.
“And please pray for us as we navigate this new adventure.”