Monday, March 28, 2016

Mother Angelica of EWTN dies at 92

Mother Angelica (1923-2016)
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on Easter Sunday, March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old. Born Rita Rizzo on April 20, 1923, few would have predicted that the girl from a troubled family in Canton, Ohio, would go on to found not only two thriving religious orders, but also the world’s largest religious media network.
On Aug. 15, 1944, at the age of 21, Rita entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Cleveland and took the name by which the world would come to know her — Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation. In 1969, she began recording spiritual talks on audio for mass distribution. She recorded her first radio program in 1971, 10-minute programs for WBRC.
Encouraged by her new friend and patron Nashville lawyer Bill Steltemeier, she recorded her first television programs seven years later — half-hour programs called Our Hermitage. It didn’t take long for her to warm to the idea of a faithful Catholic media apostolate.

While utilizing a secular studio to produce programs for a Christian cable television network one day in 1978, Mother Angelica heard that the station owned by the studio planned to air a program she felt was blasphemous. “When I found out that the station was going to broadcast a blasphemous movie, I confronted the station manager and objected,” said Mother Angelica. “He ignored my complaint, so I told him I would go elsewhere to make my tapes. He told me, ‘You leave this station and you’re off television.’”
“I’ll build my own!” responded Mother Angelica. That decision was the catalyst for EWTN, as it led to the sisters’ suggestion to turn the garage into a television studio.

Mother Angelica in the early years of EWTN
Eternal Word Television Network was launched, fittingly, on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15, 1981. That garage became the first television studio and eventually became the control room — the nerve center — for EWTN’s global television programming. From its humble beginnings in a garage at an Alabama monastery, EWTN expanded over the years into an influential TV, radio and online operation. Its channels now broadcast to 264 million households around the world.
Mother Angelica appeared regularly on the network, hosting "Mother Angelica Live," a show on which she led religious discussions with TV viewers. She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. After stepping down from leading EWTN in the early 2000s, Angelica suffered a stroke that impaired her speech and limited her mobility. EWTN's success was recognized by the leaders of the Catholic Church. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI awarded one of the Vatican's top honors to Angelica and the network's former chairman for their work.

EWTN today transmits 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400. The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.

Her funeral will be held on Friday April 1 at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in Birmingham, Alabama, with various vigil services, rosaries and prayer services between Tuesday and Thursday.

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