Unlike every TV newscast which begins with Breaking News alerts, this story starts with breaking away from the news.
Bill Tonnis, who found his calling after years as a WLW-AM and WVXU-FM newsman, performs songs from his new "Mercy Reigns" CD at a hurricane relief fund-raiser Sunday, Nov. 12.
Tonnis is the pastoral associate for outreach at Our Lady of Visitation Church in Green Township. He switched careers – from breaking news on WLW-AM to spreading the Good News – in 2007 at Our Lady of Visitation, after 10 years of writing inspirational songs on his guitar.
"I knew I could not keep going on, being the deliverer of bad news every day on the radio," Tonnis says.
His emotional floodgates broke in March 1997 when he came home from WLW-AM after an exhausting week covering the damaging Ohio River flood.
"I was miserable," he says. "Though I had initially loved my job, my soul was crying out for a change. I literally said to God, 'I give up.' And it was in the silence of this surrender when I heard a gentle voice in my heart that said, 'Go get your guitar.' "
Ten years after leaving radio, he's releasing his fourth CD with a concert 4 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Visitation, 3172 South Road, in Mack.
"I just can't see passing the basket for my music ministry when there is such need for hurricane relief. So the collection will go to help the people of Puerto Rico," says Tonnis, who grew up in Delhi Township and attended Our Lady of Victory School and Elder High School. He earned a broadcast journalism degree from Xavier University in 1982.
Since joining the parish staff, Tonnis has completed chaplain training for his current position. He visits shut-ins, hospitals, nursing homes and jails, often with his guitar. He's also a retreat leader, music minister and blogger. His music is available worldwide through iTunes and other download services.
Tonnis started working on "Mercy Reigns" two years ago, after Pope Francis called for a "Year of Mercy." It draws on his experiences from his training and visiting the sick and dying.
He'll be accompanied by Bobby Fisher (guitar/mandolin), Serenity Fisher (keyboard), Michael G. Ronstadt (cello), Doug Hamilton (violin), Todd Remmy (percussion) and Alex Seymour (bass).