Al Kresta, Longtime Catholic Radio Host, Dies At 73


By Jonah McKeown

Al Kresta, a longtime Catholic radio host, author, and founder and president of Ave Maria Radio, died Saturday at his Michigan home after a battle with liver cancer. He was 73. 

A former Evangelical Protestant who rose to prominence as a radio host before his conversion to Catholicism in 1992, Kresta’s voice was heard on hundreds of radio stations daily, including EWTN Catholic Radio, via Ave Maria’s flagship program, “Kresta in the Afternoon.” 

According to a webpage set up by Kresta’s family to provide updates, Kresta was admitted to the University of Michigan Hospital on April 29 “after a month of tests,” which culminated in a liver cancer diagnosis on May 3. 

Born in 1951 in New England and raised Catholic, Kresta’s road back to the faith of his baptism was winding. Despite his upbringing, he described himself as a “stereotypical 1960s kid” who as a young man leaned into the worldly desires of “drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll.” The Catholic Church “didn’t hold much appeal to me,” he told EWTN’s “The Journey Home” in 2004. 

“I was a musician and I wanted to pursue my music and a hedonistic, self-centered lifestyle,” he told the National Catholic Register in a 2000 interview. 

“In 1969 I left home and became homeless by choice. I lived on the street, slept in vacant apartments, stayed on the beach in the Florida Keys and bummed off of friends. After some hallucinogenic LSD experiences, I hitchhiked along the eastern seaboard looking for someone who could help me make sense of my hallucinations. I ended up in a New Age group.”

Later, though, through “a series of remarkable, providential occurrences,” Kresta said he became convinced that the New Age movement’s depiction of Jesus as a hippy guru was not correct. In 1974, as a student at Michigan State University, he embraced Evangelical Protestantism, in large part thanks to the writings of C.S. Lewis. He leaned into his newfound faith, eventually opening a Christian bookstore and even pastoring a nondenominational church for five years. 

As a pastor, Kresta said he was sometimes tripped up by the fact that there were authoritative questions he had to answer about the Christian faith, and that he realized that “the Bible alone couldn’t settle these matters.”

“I had no authority,” he admitted in a later, 2007 “Journey Home”interview.

In the early 1990s, Kresta hosted a Catholic priest on his Evangelical-focused radio program as part of an episode dedicated to “Catholic answers to Catholic questions.” Kresta said he was so moved by the priest’s answers that it hit him like a ton of bricks: “My God, I’m a Catholic.” In 1992, he repented and returned to his Catholic faith; his entire family converted at the same time. 

Kresta would later say that the “intellectual integrity of the Catholic faith is unlike anything in Protestantism.”

“The Catholic faith has never disappointed me when it comes to my use of reason or intellectual coherence,” he said. 

Colleagues remember Kresta as ‘deeply thoughtful’ and ‘courageous’

EWTN President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Keck on Saturday said that Kresta’s passing was “a titanic loss not only for EWTN and Ave Maria Catholic Radio but for the entire Church.” 

“As his show intro said, he always had the Bible in one hand and a copy of the New York Times in another,” Keck said. 

“He was fearless in his willingness to take on tough issues both inside and outside the Church!” he continued. “But always with a wisdom-driven, balanced approach designed to meet the listeners where they are but never leave them there,” 

“He was an inspiring figure who overcame incredible physical roadblocks to serve his God, his family and his Church.”


The Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world. The Catholic News Agency takes much of its mission from its sister agency, ACI Prensa, which was founded in Lima, Peru, in 1980 by Fr. Adalbert Marie Mohm (†1986).

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