Mother Angelica, the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network, the world’s largest religious media network, has died at the age of 92.
The Franciscan nun died on Easter Sunday at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Alabama, the monastery she had helped to found over 50 years ago. She had been in poor health for some time, and had been placed on a feeding tube.
Mother Angelica founded Eternal Word Television Network in 1980, using a converted garage at the monastery. It steadily grew, not least thanks to her own appearances on the talk show Mother Angelica Live. The channel broadcasts a range of talk shows, interviews, news programmes, and devotional items including daily Mass.
EWTN expanded to include a radio station and the National Catholic Register newspaper. In 2015 its programming reached 250 million homes in over 100 countries.
Mother Angelica was known for her straight-talking, feisty manner and her profound trust in God. She once said: “I’m not afraid to fail, but I am scared to death of dying and having the Lord say to me: ‘Angelica, this is what you might have done had you trusted me more.’”
American Catholics have paid tribute to her. The theologian Janet Smith told Aleteia: “She was a simple nun, with a profound faith, and one courageously dependent upon God’s grace to supply what was needed. Her life and deeds were miraculous. I have great confidence that some day she will be declared to be a saint.”
Twitter users have also called for Mother Angelica to be made a saint. One tweeted: “A beautiful saint who lived an unforgettable life.”
The philosopher Alice von Hildebrand, like many others who knew her, highlighted Mother Angelica’s trust in divine providence: “She started from nothing. Everything was against her. But she trusted that with His help, she could spread the Gospel to the world through EWTN. It edges on the miraculous.”
The author and EWTN presenter Fr Mitch Pacwa said: “She didn’t worry about a thing except being faithful to Christ. It was the number one issue for her, hands down. She didn’t care who you were or what you said – if it contradicted the faith, she’d shut you down, even if you were ordained clergy.”
She was born Rita Antoinette Rizzo in 1920, to Italian-American parents who would later divorce. She has said that she and her mother were “barely surviving” in the years after the Depression.
In 1943, she experienced a sudden cure of a stomach problem, which she would later attribute to God’s miraculous intervention.
The following year she entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. She wrote to her mother: “Something happened to me after my cure. What it was, I don’t know. I fell completely in love with Our Lord. To live in the world for these past 19 months has been very difficult.”
Having taken the name Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, she continued to suffer from ill health. She promised God that if she recovered from one particularly serious back injury, she would found a monastery. She recovered and founded Our Lady of the Angels Monastery with four other nuns in 1962.
She began making TV programmes in the mid-70s; later, she bough satellite space to launch EWTN. It began with a mixture of specifically Catholic, generally Christian and non-religious programming (including cookery shows), but became more markedly Catholic; in its tone it mirrored many of the themes of John Paul II”s pontificate. It is funded almost entirely by donations.
Mother Angelica said she had experienced a vision of the Child Jesus on a visit to the Basilica of Divino Niño Jesus in Colombia. He told her, “Build me a temple, and I will help those who help you.”
As a result, Mother Angelica built the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, next to Our Lady of the Angels.
In 2001 she suffered a stroke and afterwards spoke with more difficulty. Her health had slowly declined since, though until recently she continued to make appearances on EWTN.