Faith is strong for WGN’s Dina Bair

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
April 11, 2018

WGN anchor Dina Bair interviews a young adult attending the archdiocese’s reEncounter event on Oct. 20, 2017, at the UIC Pavilion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Dina Bair, WGN-TV Weekday Midday News anchor and health reporter, has had many moments when God clearly interjected himself in her life and answered prayers.

One such occasion happened to the lifelong Catholic while she covered the election of Pope Francis in 2013. She and photojournalist Mike D’Angelo were in St. Peter’s Square with other media and were told it would be two more days until the election would be decided. 

It had been raining in Rome so they were huddled under a tarp hanging over a camera tripod day and night, waiting. 

“I knew that when it happened, I was going to have to go live. I had a notebook full of the things that we had done. All of a sudden I get this nagging feeling that it’s going to be soon,” Bair recalled. 

She decided she had to get all of her thoughts down on paper so she could go live if the new pope was announced. She asked D’Angelo for 30 minutes to organize her thoughts.

“He said, ‘Didn’t you listen to the priest? It’s going to be two more days.’ I said, ‘I’m telling you, there’s a little voice in my ear that’s telling me it’s going to be sooner.’ And he said, ‘What do you think? You’ve got a direct connect with God or something?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but when I hear that voice I listen to it.’”

She put down about 100 bullet points on paper.

“I’m writing down the last one, he pulls up the tarp, says a profanity — Holy bleep! It’s the white smoke.’ And I said to myself, that’s fine because I’m perfectly ready.”

Back in Chicago, WGN-TV cut right to Bair and she rattled off all of her information. In studio, they were waiting for their Catholic experts to arrive and needed Bair to fill the time. She was coming down to the last three points and she heard in her earpiece to wrap it up and the studio could take over back in Chicago.

She was happy she listened to that prompting from the Holy Spirit, she said.

Bair, who has worked at WGN for 25 years, also covered Pope Francis’ visit to the United States for the World Meeting of Families in 2015. WGN gives Bair these assignments because she is the practicing Catholic in the newsroom.

“I only get the luxury of covering religion stories when they are something major like that. What we’re doing is the murder de jour and all of the discourse and hatred in the world. And you’re there [at these papal events] and you just see all of these people helping each other and loving each other and major crowds,” she said. “Instead of people pushing and shoving they are asking how they can help one another. It’s such a great experience.” 

Bair also met St. John Paul II during a private audience with Cardinal George when the latter was made a cardinal. She has a photo of that meeting pinned to the wall in her office. Next to it is the thank you letter Cardinal George wrote to her just before he died. 

But her faith doesn’t just show at the office. She volunteers to emcee charity events and she and her family attend St. Francis Xavier in Wilmette, where she also lectors and serves as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. 

Bair has also taught religious education to seventh-graders for several years. She started when her sons were attending.  

“I really do feel my faith, believe it and want to teach it, not just in my own home to my kids, but even when my kids were gone I was still teaching,” Bair said. “I just feel like they are such a young and wonderful age where you can really make a difference by telling them stories of faith.”

Seventh grade can be a challenging age group to teach, said Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Mary Ann Casey, who recently moved on as the parish’s director of religious education. 

“Dina was a wonderful example to that age group. She always began or ended her lessons with prayer,” Casey said. “She spoke from her heart.” 
On the weekends when she lectored at the 8 a.m. Mass, before 9 a.m. classes, she would prepare the classroom ahead of time so she was ready when Mass ended, Casey recalled. 

“They knew she was coming from church. They saw that witness, that this is somebody who prays with the community, volunteers to teach and is a professional person,” Casey said. “She exuded her faith with the kids.”

Faith has always been a part of Bair’s life, which has been one filled with struggles. In addition to surviving cancer twice, her father, who was abusive, left her mother and siblings when Bair was young. She remembers looking around at her friends’ families and wondering what was wrong with hers. 

Around that time she heard a voice that she believes was the Blessed Mother telling her, “You are loved and you are wonderful.”

“I always took that moment and lived with it the rest of my life,” Bair said.