- - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We were saddened by the passing of Mother Angelica who died at the age of 92 on Easter Sunday. This beloved Catholic nun lived a truly extraordinary life.

In 1981, Mother Angelica founded the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Starting with just $200 and working out of the garage of her monastery, EWTN is today the largest religious broadcasting empire in the world. EWTN now broadcasts to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries with 24-hour cable television programming. In addition, EWTN broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio and operates several publishing ventures.

It is a towering achievement by any standard. It is all the more remarkable considering the difficult circumstances of Mother Angelica’s upbringing. Her father abandoned the family. Her parents later divorced when she was seven. Her mother suffered from depression and was emotionally dependent on her young daughter. Mother and daughter moved around together, under great financial strain and trying to make ends meet, especially at the onset of the Great Depression.

“She was an adult all her life,” a cousin once said of Mother Angelica. “She never had a childhood.”

After experiencing a few years later what she believed to be a miraculous healing of several physical ailments, Mother Angelica became totally devoted to Christ, eventually understanding that she had a vocation to religious life. On August 15, 1944, at the age of 21, she entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration Monastery in Cleveland, Ohio.

Several years later, after recovering from another physical trauma, Mother Angelica was seized with a vision to build a monastery in the South. On May 20, 1962, Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Alabama was dedicated.

Nearly a decade later, Mother Angelica began to realize a gift for teaching and an ardent desire to share the love of God. She started with mini-books. The first was about prayer. This new direction in her life would eventually lead her to launch EWTN.

Charles Chaput, the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, said this about Mother Angelica’s legacy:

“Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve. She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. Mother Angelica inspired other gifted people to join her in the work without compromising her own leadership and vision. I admired her very much, not just as a talented leader and communicator, but as a friend and great woman religious of generosity, intellect and Catholic faith.

“After receiving a personal report in the mid-1990s about EWTN’s plans to expand to all corners of the Earth, Pope John Paul II drew a cross on her forehead and said of Mother Angelica, who stood before him on aluminum crutches, “Mother Angelica: Weak in body, strong in spirit.”

Mother Angelica suffered debilitating strokes in 2001 and could no longer actively lead her ministry. Her main contributions to EWTN these past 15 years were in prayer.

For someone who suffered so much in her life, Mother Angelica’s ability to forgive and trust in God was a remarkable witness of faith. Her response to God’s merciful love was faithfulness.

The woman whose own childhood was filled with pain and sorrow wanted only to spread the love of God and love of family to others.

“I want very much to spread devotion to the Divine Child Jesus,” she said. “Not only is He powerful, but what you need and I need is family, and that Child Jesus will make us one again. He will put love in our hearts, back where it should be.”

In his letter to the Christian community in Rome, Saint Paul wrote of the moral duties of Christian life, among which are “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.” We join the millions around the world who are grateful that Mother Angelica lived such a life.

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