A Witness to the Eternal Word

Special Tribute in Memoriam

(photo: EWTN photo)

To me and countless others, Mother Angelica, who died Easter Sunday, was, first and foremost, a witness to Christ. She lived so near to the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord. Persevering and unashamed of the Gospel, she worked tirelessly throughout her life to help “make disciples of all nations.”

Her gifts to the Church, in equal measure to the gifts she received from Christ during her 92 years, are well-documented throughout this issue of the Register.

Mother Angelica leaves behind a world of Catholics who are better catechized than when she first began her mission. Catholics around the globe are better connected to their local and universal Church, and more Catholics have fallen in love with the Mass and the Church’s immense deposit of knowledge and faith.

It has often been said by those outside of EWTN that “the people working at EWTN will never know how many souls they have touched until they get to heaven.”

I am confident that Mother Angelica now knows! Let us also see in this moment a reminder of our responsibility to carry on the mission that God gave to Mother Angelica.

That being said, it gives me great pleasure to present to you this special commemorative section dedicated to the life and mission of Mother Mary Angelica. I ask you to keep us in your prayers, as we faithfully strive to continue what she began.

God bless you!

— Michael Warsaw, EWTN CEO and Register publisher


Mother Angelica's Long Legacy


April 20, 1923: Rita Rizzo, the future Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN, is born in Canton, Ohio.

1942: After a visit with mystic Rhoda Wise, Rita receives a miraculous healing from her recurring stomach ailment. The experience changes her life. She realizes that God loves her personally — and she begins to love him back.

Aug. 15, 1944: Rita enters a Cleveland convent and becomes Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, a Franciscan Nun of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The order will later change its name to the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration.

Jan. 2, 1953: Sister Angelica makes her final vows. Later that year, she falls while cleaning, launching three years of incurable back pain.

July 31, 1956: Facing a risky back operation, Sister Angelica promises God she will start a monastery in the South if he permits her to walk again. The nun can move both legs when she wakes.

1960: Sister Angelica officially becomes known as Mother Angelica.

May 20, 1962: Archbishop Thomas Toolen of Mobile, Ala., dedicates Mother’s Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, Ala.

1972: Mother Angelica begins a book ministry, publishing her first work, Journey Into Prayer. Within the year, she publishes three more books. By 1976, she has purchased a printing press. 

Aug. 15, 1981: Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) launches in Irondale.

April 14, 1985: The network dedicates a brand-new 6,500-square-foot studio. The new studio means that EWTN can generate up to 50% of its own programming.

June 19, 1985: Cardinal Silvio Oddi tells Mother that Pope John Paul II told him, “EWTN is the key to restoring the Roman Catholic Church in America.”

October 1985: Morley Safer of CBS’ 60 Minutes airs a profile of Mother Angelica and EWTN.

Sept. 1, 1987: As EWTN programming expands to 24 hours a day, the network reaches 10 million subscribers.

Jan. 31, 1989: Seeking a blessing on the new shortwave radio venture, Mother Angelica and others attend the Pope’s private Mass. John Paul II sees her at the end of the receiving line and says, “Mother Angelica, you are a strong woman.” She tells His Holiness of her plans to beam radio broadcasts into Russia and the Eastern Bloc countries. He is ecstatic. A little more than a month later, Mother attends the Pope’s Wednesday general audience. When the Holy Father passes near where she is standing with her sisters, he stops, holds her face in his hands and says, twice: “Mother Angelica, la grande chief!”

May 1990: In scouting for a parcel of land, Mother has a vision of St. Michael and decides to buy a rocky parcel of land that others felt was completely unsuitable for her U.S. shortwave radio station. Only one year earlier, Mother had felt St. Michael’s sword touch her shoulder, and she heard the words, “I will ever be at your side, and we will fight together.”

Aug. 15, 1991: EWTN celebrates its 10th anniversary and reaches 22 million homes.

Dec. 28, 1992: Mother launches WEWN (Eternal Word Network), the world’s largest privately owned shortwave radio facility, to a potential worldwide listening audience of 600 million.

April-May 1993: Severe asthma, coughing and congestion lead Mother to begin a two-week hospital stay on May 5. During the hospital stay, the severity of Mother’s cough shatters a vertebra in her spine, damaging a nerve to her right leg and causing her excruciating pain. She begins to wear a new back and leg brace and can only walk with crutches.

August 1993: EWTN provides live coverage of World Youth Day ’93 from Denver to 32 million homes. WYD coverage marks the debut of a new producer, Michael Warsaw, who will one day become EWTN’s president and CEO. Coverage marks a turning point for EWTN, which picks up more than 200 new cable affiliates, reaching 2 million new households in the U.S. and 2 million more abroad.

Dec. 24, 1993: Mother and her nuns return to their traditional habits. In her next television show, Mother tells her audience that the nuns are wearing the old habit as a witness to the Lord, to each other and to obedience to the Church. She hopes to influence other sisters to do the same.

1994: In addition to adopting the traditional habit, Mother institutes previously abandoned cloister practices, such as the stating of faults, strict silence, prostration during the Consecration at Mass and more. Mother herself begins to spend three hours a day in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

Oct. 12, 1995: Mother sees a 200-acre piece of property in Hanceville, Ala., one hour north of Birmingham. Three days later, she makes an offer. She will eventually acquire 403 acres. Mother wants a 13th-century monastery that can grow its own food and raise its own livestock. She privately refers to this project as a “farm” with a “small farm chapel.”

Feb. 27, 1996: EWTN launches a worldwide AM/FM radio service.

May 1, 1996: Mother and two others visit the Vatican, where Pope John Paul II says for all to hear: “Mother Angelica, strong woman, courageous woman, charismatic woman.” She hands him a portfolio, which shows the network’s current and future plans for international expansion. He playfully keeps asking where else EWTN will broadcast until Mother runs out of geography. He goes to leave, but returns, placing one hand on her head. Tracing the cross on her forehead with the other hand, he says: “Mother Angelica, weak in body, strong in spirit; charismatic woman, charismatic woman.” EWTN is added to the Dish Network.

June 20, 1996: Mother receives a miraculous message while in Bogotá, Colombia, from the Divine Child Jesus, who tells her: “Build me a temple, and I will help those who help you.” Mother later reads an inscription on St. Peter’s in Rome that refers to the Church as “this temple.” She realizes the Christ Child wants an elaborate temple built. This command radically changes Mother’s plans, made six months earlier, to build a small farm chapel for Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville.

Jan. 28, 1998: While praying the Rosary with Paola Albertini, an Italian mystic, Mother Angelica removes the braces from her legs and begins to walk. Three physicians independently examine her and find the healing is real.

Dec. 19, 1999: The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville is consecrated during a live broadcast.

July 3, 2000: Mother has a near-death experience, which she shares with her audience on July 11. “In my heart, I really feel I died and came back,” she said. “I have no more fear of death. … Nothing matters but God and how we are to express that love to the world.”

Sept. 5, 2001: Mother has a stroke, which results in the paralysis of half of her face. Said Mother: “I’ve never had in all my life such an awareness that God was choosing me to help people. This is to bring people to a new reality that suffering is brought by God to make us holy.”

Dec. 24, 2001: Mother has a lethal stroke and collapses. Her only chance of survival is immediate brain surgery. A week later, she not only can move her legs, but feeling returns to the left side of her face, even as her comprehension improves.

Jan. 25, 2002: Mother Angelica returns home, although she will experience seizures of varying intensities over the next two years. They sap her energy and confine her to bed for long periods of time. Her language skills deteriorate.

Feb. 13, 2002: Mother tells EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo that the reason for her stroke is “purification.” She also says that, just before the stroke, “Jesus came and testified to me … that I would suffer much … suffer anguish for Jesus’ sake.”

June 2003: Mother Angelica is inducted into the Cable TV Pioneers Class of 2003.

May 2004: Alabama Broadcaster’s Association names Mother Angelica “Citizen of the Year.”

October 2009: Benedict XVI gives Mother the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award, the highest recognition that a Pope can give to a layperson or religious to honor their work.

March 2010: Mother Angelica and Raymond Arroyo, her biographer and editor, land on The New York Times’ best-seller list for the fourth time.

Feb. 1, 2011: EWTN acquires the National Catholic Register; Mother Angelica always wanted a newspaper as part of the network’s mission.

June 19, 2014: EWTN acquires the Denver-based Catholic News Agency and its sister organization, ACI Prensa Group, the world’s largest Spanish-language Catholic news organization, based in Lima, Peru.

Feb. 12, 2016: Pope Francis sends greetings to Mother Angelica on his plane trip to Cuba.

March 27, 2016: Mother Angelica dies on Easter Sunday. She leaves as her legacy a media network that broadcasts 24 hours a day, reaches more than 264 million homes in 144 different nations and has multiple print and broadcast entities — all because of her unwavering trust in God.

Register compilation via EWTN.com/MotherAngelica

EWTN Photo