Mother Angelica, born Rita Rizzo in 1923, founded a television and news empire. EWTN photo.
Mother Angelica, born Rita Rizzo in 1923, founded a television and news empire. EWTN photo.

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.

“Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who has served on EWTN’s board of governors since 1995. “She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. She had a lot of help, obviously, but that was part of her genius.”

“In passing to eternal life, Mother Angelica leaves behind a legacy of holiness and commitment to the New Evangelization that should inspire us all,” said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. “I was honored to know and be able to assist Mother Angelica during the early days of EWTN. Over the years, that relationship grew, and today the Knights of Columbus and EWTN partner regularly on important projects.”

“Mother Angelica was fearless because she had God on her side,” Anderson added. “She saw what he needed her to do, and she did it! She transformed the world of Catholic broadcasting and brought the Gospel to far corners of our world. That witness of faith was unmistakable to anyone who met and worked with her, and generations of Catholics have and will continue to be formed by her vision and her ‘Yes’ to God’s will.”.

“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.”

“Mother Angelica has two important legacies,” said Arroyo. “To the wider world, she’s the first woman in the history of broadcast to found and lead a network for over 20 years. No one else has ever done that.”

“She was such a great support to Pope John Paul II and his successor,” added Arroyo. “Her active ministry ran parallel to Pope John Paul II’s, and she backed him up at a time when so many people were undermining Church authority, distorting the history and nature of the liturgy and popular devotion and confusing Catholic teaching. She showed that the commonsense approach of Catholics was right. She normalized the truth of the faith at a time when it was up for grabs.”

On Feb. 12, Pope Francis sent his greetings to Mother Angelica from aboard his papal plane to Cuba. “To Mother Angelica with my blessing, and I ask you to pray for me; I need it,” the Holy Father said. “God bless you, Mother Angelica.”

Mother Angelica retired from her leadership of EWTN in 2000. She suffered a stroke the following Christmas Eve. As a consequence, she spent the last years of her life mostly without the capacity for speech. Arroyo said that didn’t weaken her effectiveness.

“While she was unable to speak at length and sound off on the controversies and confusions of the day, what she did through prayer in her suffering was remarkable,” said Arroyo. “It’s certainly not our efforts that have kept EWTN on the air and allowed it to reach people in amazing ways. I attribute it all to the suffering of that one woman in Hanceville.”

Warsaw praised Mother Angelica as an inspiring model of Christian faith.

“The important thing, as Mother Angelica’s life and the lives so many of the saints have shown us, is to be faithful and to persevere,” he noted. “She once said, ‘You have been created by God and know Jesus for one reason: to witness to faith, hope and love before an unbelieving world.’”

“Mother Angelica’s life has been a life of faith; her prayer life and obedience to God are worthy of our imitation,” Warsaw continued. “Everything she did was an act of faith,” Archbishop Chaput agreed.

“She inspired other gifted people to join her in the work without compromising her own leadership and vision,” he said. “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.”

(Catholic News Agency)