Mother Angelica, Founder of world`s largest religious broadcasting network EWTN passed away on March 27th 2016. She was 92 years old.
Birth and Early Life:
Mother Angelica was born April 20, 1923, as Rita Rizzo in an Italian neighborhood in Canton, Ohio. She was the only child of John and Mae Helen Rizzo . Her father, a tailor by trade, abandoned the family when Rizzo was very young and her parents divorced in 1929. Her mother maintained full custody of her but struggled with chronic depression and poverty.
Looking back upon this time in her life, Mother Angelica described herself and her mother as being “like a pair of refugees. We were poor, hungry, and barely surviving on odd jobs before Mother learned the dry cleaning business as an apprentice to a Jewish tailor in our area. Even then, we pinched pennies just to keep food on the table.” By the age of 16, Rizzo realized that her mother’s dry-cleaning job was a dead-end; through Rizzo’s efforts, her mother gained a better job that provided some relief from their dire poverty. “We lived in rat-infested apartments — our life was so hard. I was interested in survival so I didn’t do well in school. It’s hard when you’re hungry and cold to study,” she recalled in 1987.
She spent much of her early life plagued by an array of stomach ailments. In 1943, she claimed to have been cured by a Catholic faith healer, signaling the beginning of her interest in a religious vocation, according to a 2007 biography written by Mr. Arroyo, “Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles.”
In 1944, she joined her religious order and professed her solemn vows in Canton in 1953 as Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a contemplative order of Franciscan nuns in Canton. Another physical ailment — a spinal injury suffered in a fall, followed by two years of chronic pain — led her to promise to build a new monastery if cured. Her prayers answered, she set off in 1962 with four other sisters of her order to start Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, a place with almost no Catholics.
There, Mother Angelica began writing booklets and recording audio cassettes to introduce Catholicism to her new neighbors. When a local television station gave her a half-hour of airtime, her on-camera charisma attracted Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which began airing her show on its satellite network. She said these appearances made her aware of the tremendous influence television has in spreading messages.
In an interview with The New York Times in 1989, Mother Angelica described how a visit to a television studio in Chicago ignited her entrepreneurial drive, and led to the birth of her worldwide enterprise. “I walked in, and it was just a little studio, and I remember standing in the doorway and thinking, it doesn’t take much to reach the masses,” she said. “I just stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Lord, I’ve got to have one of these.’”
With the support of her religious community, Mother Angelica began consulting with media experts about starting her own TV station, hatching the idea of EWTN. She was granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission, and EWTN went on the air in August 1981.She began with $200 and little knowledge about TV production. The operation started in a building meant to be a garage on the grounds of the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery she headed in the Irondale suburb of Birmingham. Originally its daily programming of several hours was carried by three cable systems.
In 1992, Mother Angelica launched the short-wave EWTN Global Catholic Radio which broadcasts in English and Spanish. In 1996, EWTN started a satellite-delivered AM/FM radio network with programming also available for rebroadcast by local stations.
In 1998, Mother Angelica stepped down as the head of EWTN and Deacon Steltemeier was appointed chairman and CEO. He died in 2013.
Awards & Recognition:
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross to her and Deacon Bill Steltemeier, then-chairman of EWTN’s board of governors, for distinguished service to the church. The cross, whose name is Latin for “for the church and the pope,” is the highest papal honor that can be conferred on laypeople and clergy.Because of ill-health, Mother Angelica received the award in her private quarters. But in the public ceremony, Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham said “Mother Angelica’s effort has been at the vanguard of the new evangelization and has had a great impact on our world.”
A 1995 profile in Time magazine called her “an improbable superstar of religious broadcasting and arguably the most influential Roman Catholic woman in America.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a member of the network’s board of governors, said in its statement that Mother Angelica “succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve.”
Mother Angelica’s outspokenness on church issues — her pet peeves were gender-neutral language in the liturgy and a change allowing girls to become altar servers — made her both friends and enemies among the Catholic faithful.
“Faith is having one foot on the ground and the other up in the air, waiting for the Lord to put the ground under it”
“We have lost the theology of risk and replaced it with a theology of assurance” that says “you have to know what’s going to happen before you embark on something new”