The following comes from a March 27 Catholic News Agency article:
The Catholic Church in the United States has lost the Poor Clare nun who changed the face of Catholicism in the United States and around the world.
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.
“Mother has always and will always personify EWTN, the network that God asked her to found,” said EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Warsaw. “Her accomplishments and legacies in evangelization throughout the world are nothing short of miraculous and can only be attributed to divine Providence and her unwavering faithfulness to Our Lord.”
In 1981, Mother Angelica launched Eternal Word Television Network, which 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.
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. Her life was one marked by many trials, but also by a profound “Yes” to whatever she felt God was asking of her.
“My parents divorced when I was 6 years old. That’s when hell began,” Mother Angelica said in a Register interview published in 2001. “My mother and I were desperate — moving from place to place, poor, hungry and barely surviving.”
The seeds of Mother’s vocation were in a healing she received when she was a teenager. She suffered from severe stomach pain when she and her mother went to visit Rhoda Wise, a Canton local to whom people had attributed miraculous healings. Wise gave Rita a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. After nine days of prayer, Rita’s pain disappeared: She had been healed.
“That was the day I became aware of God’s love for me and began to thirst for him,” said Mother Angelica. “All I wanted to do after my healing was give myself to Jesus.” And give herself to Jesus, she did.
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.
On Feb. 3, 1961, after various medical problems and potential roadblocks, Rome granted Sister Mary Angelica permission for Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, Alabama. 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, according to her biography, Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo, host of EWTN’s The World Over.
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,” said Arroyo. “It led to the sisters’ suggestion to turn the garage into a television studio.”
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.
“Mother Angelica has been compared to a powerful medieval abbess. But the mass-media instrument she created has extended her influence for the Gospel far beyond that of any medieval abbess, and even beyond that of many of the last century’s most prominent American bishops,” said Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press. “Her long-term contribution is hard to assess, of course, but there is no doubt that Mother Angelica has helped root the Church in America more deeply in the Catholic Tradition; and at the same time, she has helped make the Church more innovative in how she communicates that tradition. All Catholics in America should thank God for Mother Angelica.”