March 28, 2016

Catholic TV pioneer Mother Angelica dead at 92

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Mother Angelica, the nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network, died on Easter Sunday (March 27) in 2016. Photo courtesy of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery

Mother Angelica, the nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network, died on Easter Sunday (March 27) in 2016. Photo courtesy of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery

An announcement last week that Mother Angelica, the doughty nun who founded the EWTN cable network before suffering an incapacitating stroke in 2001, had been given a feeding tube set off alarm bells, especially among her loyal following of conservative Catholics. Photo courtesy of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery

Mother Angelica, the nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network, died on Easter Sunday (March 27) in 2016. Photo courtesy of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery

(RNS) Mother Angelica, the conservative nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network, died on Easter Sunday (March 27), 15 years after a debilitating stroke on Christmas Eve. She was 92.

Although she was only able to communicate with a squeeze of her hand for many years, she retained a devoted admirers nationwide who followed the Catholic cable channel she started in 1981. She personified EWTN, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw said in a news release Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

“In the face of sickness and long-suffering trials, Mother’s example of joy and prayerful perseverance exemplified the Franciscan spirit she held so dear. We thank God for Mother Angelica and for the gift of her extraordinary life,” Warsaw said.

Born Rita Rizzo in Canton, Ohio, in 1923, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation — as she came to be known — entered the Poor Clares, a branch of the Franciscan order, in 1944. She went on to found a monastery in Irondale, Ala., in 1962 and in the 1990s started the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, where she resided in her last years, about an hour north in Hanceville.


READ: Pope Francis makes emotional appeal for global peace in Easter message


She began her broadcasting career with commercial television spots, created in the monastery garage. When those were pre-empted, she launched EWTN. It became a beacon of conservative orthodoxy thanks in large part to the regular — and distinctive — on-air presence of Mother Angelica herself.

Wearing a black-and-white habit and a sweet but steely smile, Mother Angelica would not hesitate to scold church leaders who she felt were too lax in their teachings or practices. She promoted traditional devotions and rites and claimed to have experienced mystical visions herself.

Then, in 2001, she suffered a series of strokes that began limiting her appearances, and a massive hemorrhage on Christmas Eve that year left her largely incapacitated. “Mother Angelica Live” classic broadcasts remain popular on the air and on the Internet.

Under the direction of a lay board, EWTN continued to grow, and today it claims to be “the largest religious media network in the world,” broadcasting 24/7 in multiple languages to more than 258 million television households in 145 countries and territories. EWTN also has a popular website and since 2011 has operated the National Catholic Register newspaper. It merged with the Catholic News Agency in 2014 and formed EWTN Publishing Inc. in 2015

A Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. Friday (April 1) at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville. Interment will follow in the shrine’s Crypt Chapel.

(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS. Cathy Lynn Grossman contributed to this report)

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  • Peg Baumgartner

    Very amazing- her network, but unfortunately her personal conservative ideas influenced her editorializing, and set the Catholic Church in US back to
    pre-Vatican II ideas. Too much on her broadcast gave her own opinions and some of her reporters’ personal views, not always that of the Catholic church.
    Some of the Masses at her convent used practices that are not recommended by Catholic Church today.

    Good reporting of Vatican events and Masses on TV which used Radio Vatican commentators who were very accurate and not editorializing their own opinions. Those video presentations of Papal Masses and/or United States’
    religious Masses and events are very worthwhile contribution.

  • Debbo

    The nuns I know were embarrassed by her behavior and broadcasts. They were also tired of regularly saying, “Most oF us are nother like that.”

  • Observer

    RIP. In a different era, her network could have reignited the 30 Years War.

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon Mother Angelica.

  • samuel johnston

    No question she raised a lot of money. I regularly drive by EWT’s massive antenna/dish farm- very impressive. As to Mother Angelica’s TV programming,
    (closely supervised by herself), I best remember a youngish, bearded monk, wearing a rough robe, tied by a rope. “And my friends ask me”, he mused,
    “Can’t I go to my divorced friend’s remarriage ceremony? And I say “WHAT ARE YOU CELEBRATING? ADULTERY? FORNICATION?”
    Christion love, compassion, and understanding on display.

  • God bless Mother Angelica for her love of God and the Catholic Church and for not putting up with any of the errant non Catholic ideas that were continually being pushed by members of the clergy,and “enlightened” theologians who thought that in order to fill the pews, the Church needed change and compromise in order to fit in with the world, eg changing the teaching on what has always regarded as intrinsically sinful, and protestantising the Eucharist, accommodating wacky “new Age” ideas into the mass, and trying to weaken the staunchly pro Life message of the Church,and many other ways- she may have upset the Catholic In name Only people, but she ALWAYS STOOD UP FOR THE TRUTH
    Anyone who watched her on her Mother Angelica live programme couldn’t fail to be blessed as it was so obvious that she had such a deep and abiding love of Jesus, and was full of the Holy Spirit and the Grace and love of God

  • God bless Mother Angelica for her love of God and the Catholic Church and for not putting up with any of the errant non Catholic ideas that were continually being pushed by members of the clergy,and “enlightened” theologians who thought that in order to fill the pews, the Church needed change and compromise in order to fit in with the world, eg changing the teaching on what has always regarded as intrinsically sinful, and protestantising the Eucharist, accommodating wacky “new Age” ideas into the mass, and trying to weaken the staunchly pro Life message of the Church,and many other ways- she may have upset the Catholic In name Only people, but she ALWAYS STOOD UP FOR THE TRUTH
    Anyone who watched her on her Mother Angelica live programme couldn’t fail to be blessed as it was so obvious that she had such a deep and abiding love of Jesus, and was full of the Holy Spirit and the Grace and love of God

  • Dear Mother Angelica although I have not met you personally, the very moment I heard about your passing away from this earth to your eternal home, an atmosphere of loneliness and emptiness prevailed over me and this still continues. I feel so blessed now
    to think that I was able to read your book –“Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality” , which was sent to me direct from USA by a cousin of mine. It is a great book which deepened my faith and strengthened my spiritual life. Thank you Mother Angelica for this great gift; of love. you will always be in my prayers and heart. I love you and God loves you more. Pray for me. Astrid from Sri Lanka

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  • SP/WCOMC

    I Enjoyed Mother Angelica’s programs. Much to be Learned. And Admired. I Loved, her Folksy, ‘Down to Earthness’. Will be Missed. Great Voice in the World. God rest her soul. Amen.