Mother Angelica’s Inspiration Drew Families to Alabama
‘There’s so much peace here,’ said one person who picked up stakes to move near the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated since it was posted.
HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Mother Angelica inspired people in many ways. Her love for the faith and great thirst to share it with others also prompted families to relocate near the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala.
Paul and Monica Howell and their 13 children were living in Idaho, farming and raising trout commercially.
“We were noticing the apathy of religion in particular and certain liberal tendencies,” Paul said. “We both knew we needed a place to raise our kids around kids being raised the same way.”
Monica explained how, when EWTN began broadcasting on shortwave, a “wonderful priest” they knew bought them a shortwave radio so they could listen to the various shows. “We were just so thrilled,” she said, “to be exposed to the network and the truth though Mother Angelica.”
Regular listeners, the Howells still didn’t think of moving to Alabama. But, as Paul explained, their search in other areas had roadblocks: “Every time we were looking for a place, we ran into trouble.”
The Howells were familiar with (the late) Father Robert Fox, founder of the Family Fatima Apostolate (FatimaFamily.org). He advertised a house for sale, located near the shrine in Hanceville. It also happened to be his house. “But Alabama?” thought the Howells: It was not on their list of possible new places.
“We were trying to go in one direction, and God was slamming the doors,” Paul said. “At the same time, Father Fox was persistent and encouraging.” In fact, he gave their contact information to several people who lived near the shrine to speak to the Howells about the area.
“We knew the truth was being taught [by Mother and EWTN] from listening to the radio, and the kids were excited,” Monica noted, as they began to realize the location by the shrine was ideal for their family.
“Try to imagine selling cows and moving 13 kids across the country at the same time,” Paul said. “But everything was falling into place. We were convinced God was helping us to move to Alabama.”
Once by the shrine, they immediately knew they were in the right place. Monica lists the spiritual treasures they found in the daily Mass and confession.
“It inspired the kids to go deeper into the faith,” Paul explained. And with other families and children on the same wavelength, “there was positive peer influence.”
The truth the friars preach daily and the positive peer presence always gave Paul and Monica “that same feeling,” he said. Monica observed the powerful influence and the joy — “so good for the kids” — that the friars always have. Father Joseph Wolfe of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, EWTN’s chaplain, became a personal friend, too.
“You see God working,” Paul emphasized about their relocation.
In fact, their son Jonathan is now studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Birmingham and will be ordained to the diaconate next year.
Andy and Judy Warwick made the opposite trek 16 and a half years ago, when they left Boca Raton, Fla., and headed to Alabama.
“We were following Mother Angelica,” said Judy. The Warwicks’ children were all out of college, and Andy and Judy gave up their jobs. Now they could do what they wanted, she said.
“We love it!” Judy enthused. “We never took this for granted. It’s a pure gift to live here and be called here.”
“You know you’re called here — you just didn’t move here,” she added.
Being residents right by the shrine, and now working at the shrine, Judy finds “such a peace in our hearts” that underlines that knowledge that “this is where God wants you.”
You find it “different than any other place you’ve lived.”
The same goes for her job at the shrine. “What a gift,” she said, “to represent the nuns.”
“Living the spirituality of Mother Angelica and the nuns, you desire to become like them,” she added.
Jim and Peggy Tucci met Mother Angelica quite a number of years ago, when she came to Chicago. During their conversation, Jim said, “Mother told us, ‘Why don’t you come to Alabama?’” She added that Jim, a chef, could cook for her.
But he and his wife had no plans to pack up and move. But they visited. During another visit, they even bought a piece of property on County Road 747 near the shrine. But Chicago remained their home — until a providential wake-up call one morning.
“We looked at the clock, and it was 7:47,” Jim remembers. “I said, ‘I wonder what that means?’” And Peggy, thinking of Country Road 747 in Alabama, replied, “It means we’ve got to go back there.’”
It was good-bye Chicago, hello Alabama.
Jim put his cooking skills to work. From their new home, he enjoyed making lots of soups for Mother, and he also cooked at times for the nuns.
What was one of Mother’s favorite meals? “Italian sausage and green peppers,” Jim said. “It was the first meal I brought her.”
“How did you know?” she said upon seeing her favorites. His answer: “Because you’re Calabrese!”
He recalled the time she called to tell him, “Jim, I have a taste for artichokes.” Naturally, he prepared some for her.
In Birmingham, the Tuccis were regular audience members for Mother Angelica Live.
Move With Meaning
Jerry and Linda Enfield marked the 11th anniversary of their arrival as residents near the shrine on the day of Mother Angelica’s funeral, April 1. They, too, moved from Boca Raton.
“We never guessed we’d move here,” Linda said. “But when God says it’s time to move on,” the Enfields did, believing God directed them here. And that was a surprise because, said Linda, Jerry was “not Catholic and not interested in being a Catholic.”
But when they arrived, he got a job at the shrine — and “in two months, he said he wanted to start RCIA,” Linda said. She had prayed for 30 years, but the nuns’ prayers took only two months, she added with great satisfaction.
Linda also began working for Mother and the nuns in the gift shop, where, today, she is the shop’s manager.
A lot also comes down to the present moment. Linda put it this way: “Mother talked so much about living in the present moment.” The more that aspect of Mother’s teaching and spirituality became part of their lives, Linda said, “That’s why I knew we were called here.”
“Boca Raton was such a worldly place, and this is so different,” she concluded. “There’s so much peace here. You’re not in the ‘world.’ God pulled us out to be closer to himself.”
Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen is in Alabama covering Mother Angelica’s funeral.