Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
Hang around the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) long enough and you’re bound to hear some miraculous stories (stories like those told in Raymond Arroyo’s best-selling biography of Mother Angelica) — stories about how Mother Angelica’s tremendous faith led her to start a religious order, a global television network and a radio network that reaches worldwide; stories about miraculous healings and visions; providential stories about 11th-hour donors who helped finance satellite dish purchases and the building of the Hanceville Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Hang around long enough and you’ll also hear staff members refer to EWTN as “God’s network.”
For the staff of the National Catholic Register, who spent the past week at the network’s headquarters in Irondale, Ala., the story of EWTN’s acquisition of the Register is yet another miraculous story to add to the EWTN lore.
After a series of budget cuts and layoffs, it looked as if the newspaper might actually be lost forever … that is, until EWTN stepped in. Sensing a natural synergy between the two entities, EWTN acquired the Register just weeks before an anticipated closing. The acquisition took place Feb. 1.
This week, Register employees took part in orientation and tours in Irondale, and a Lenten retreat offered by Bishop James Wall of Gallup, N.M.
Staff who endured — and survived — the morale-testing cuts of the past two years breathed a collective sigh of relief because of the warm welcome they received by EWTN staff, and the stability of being part of the 350-employee strong religious network. Many feel as if it’s a natural fit — truly a marriage made in heaven.
During orientation, Register staff met EWTN executives, learned of the network’s many endeavors, toured the television, radio and EWTN Religious Catalogue facilities, and sat in on the taping of Father Mitch Pacwa’s Threshhold of Hope and EWTN Live programs.
Through its shortwave transmitters on “Radio Mountain,” EWTN is able to transmit its programming throughout Central America, South America, Africa and Asia. The scope of what EWTN does — transmitting the Gospel to the world — is truly stunning.
The trip included an introduction to Alabama-style cooking with a wonderful pulled-pork barbecue potluck offered by the employees of the radio facility, and dinner out at Sweet Bones — complete with fried pickles, fried okra, friend green tomatoes and ribs larger than your head.
On Friday, the daylong retreat on the topic of Pope Benedict XVI’s three encyclicals was preached by the country’s youngest bishop, Bishop Wall. Father Joseph Mary, of the Franciscans of the Eternal Word, shared a joke from EWTN Vice President Doug Keck that, “while the rest of us are getting older, our bishops are getting younger.”
Bishop Wall reminded EWTN employees that their work is truly missionary and that all must realize that they are engaged in the work of “promoting integral human development.”
“When people ask you why you do what you do, your answer must be ‘Jesus,’” said Bishop Wall. “Jesus is the answer to every question,” the bishop said throughout the day.
Speaking for the Register staff, I cannot say enough how glad we are to be a part of the EWTN family. The union has already led to increases in circulation and advertising — a sign that faith-filled Catholics are also happy about the partnership. We thank all those who have stuck with us for their prayers, support and financial contributions. With our new partnership, we hope to add many more supporters on the latest leg of our journey. We thank EWTN for their warm welcome and their southern hospitality, and we look forward to working together. My one question: If EWTN is “God’s network,” does that make the Register “God’s newspaper?”