Penny Lord, 'An Indomitable Woman of Faith' (1928-2014)

Remembering the favorite EWTN personality and pilgrimage host

Penny Lord
Penny Lord (photo: EWTN)

MORRILTON, Ark. — Penny Lord — who with her husband, Bob, became a familiar sight to Eternal Word Television Network’s international family of viewers as they hosted a series of programs that began the year after the Lords had their first interview with Mother Angelica in December 1986 — died at home on Jan. 21. She was 85.

The Lords would go on to be network regulars over the next 26 years, with programs that continue to air today. They became particular favorites of viewers and would frequently appear at EWTN events, including the 2013 Family Celebration in Birmingham, Ala.

“From the earliest days of the network’s history, Penny Lord was a devoted and faithful supporter of Mother Angelica and the mission of EWTN,” noted Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN. “Together with her husband, Bob, she touched the lives of countless viewers of EWTN, transporting them to shrines and places of pilgrimage and devotion around the world.

“Her enthusiasm and zeal for Our Lord was infectious. All of us who knew her through the years took great joy in every encounter, phone call or meeting with Penny. We will certainly miss her greatly.”

Penny Lord is survived by Bob, her husband of 55 years, and also by her grandson, Rob Ziminsky, his wife, Andrea, and their children, Matthew and Mark; daughter Clare Parker and husband, Bobby; and her daughter Christiana of South Carolina and her adopted son and daughter, Luz Elena Sandoval-Lord and Raymond Joseph (Brother Joseph) Freyaldenhoven of Holy Family Mission in Morrilton, Ark. She was pre-deceased by a son.

Funeral arrangements are planned for next week. The Rosary will be prayed on Sunday, Jan. 26, beginning at 6pm, with a visitation to follow until 8:30pm at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morrilton. The funeral Mass will be 10am Monday, Jan. 27, at Sacred Heart Church, with Father Jack Harris officiating. The burial will be at Holy Family Mission Cemetery.

Penny Lord was born Pauline Eve Macaluso on Sept. 23, 1928. She grew up in a faith-filled Italian home in Brooklyn, N.Y., where her father was a civil servant and her mother was a sewing-machine operator in one of the many clothing factories in New York City.

After attending public school in Brooklyn, she graduated from Richmond Hill High School, after the family moved to the borough of Queens. Excelling in school, she was a member of the Arista Society that recognized outstanding honor students.

Initially planning to study law in Chicago, she first attended Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, W.Va.; then she went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. There, she came upon the name Penny and liked it enough to assume it as her own.

Most importantly, at the academy, she met fellow student Bob Lord. Their meeting took place on her birthday, Sept. 23. She always called that her best birthday present. They married on Dec. 21, 1958.


A Change of Direction

Later, living in California, the Lords attended a Marriage Encounter weekend in May 1975 in Santa Barbara that changed their lives.

As part of their newfound love for the Church, after having been away for a time following the untimely death of their son, they felt the Lord directing them to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Europe. The trip turned into more than a tour of holy places. It put in their hearts a great desire to seek out and venerate the various shrines of the Catholic Church, especially ones that had to do with miracles of the Eucharist.

Soon, the Lords were successfully leading their own pilgrimages abroad, until the threat of terrorism in the Middle East frightened people away from pilgrimage places, especially those in the Holy Land.

With all their savings locked into their travel agency and advertising, Penny would say the Lord told them not to worry and insisted they had a treasure. Although they had never written anything before, she told her husband the Lord wanted him to write a book about Eucharistic miracles.

Because of Penny’s insistence and persistence, This Is My Body; This Is My Blood: Miracles of the Eucharist was written by the Lords and became exceptionally successful. To date, more than 300,000 copies have sold. This book opened into other spiritual treasures, as it became the foundational root of what blossomed into their worldwide ministry of evangelization through communications media.

Over the next 26 years, the Lords went on to write 25 books on the Catholic faith, including We Came Back to Jesus and The Journey and the Dream. In their last book, Heroes — Popes in Hard Times, the husband-wife team chronicled different popes over the centuries up to the 20th century who fought great battles with enemies of the Church. They also wrote a travel article for the Register about the Shrine of St. Germaine de Pibrac.

But it was that first book on Eucharistic miracles that brought them to the attention of Mother Angelica and EWTN. After she first interviewed them in December 1986, the Lords began making different television series about their books and pilgrimages for the network.


A Mother to Pilgrims

Earlier, they founded their Journeys of Faith ministry in 1980, after becoming pilgrimage directors in 1976. In later years, Penny would say to audiences: “We fell in love with Mother Church, Our Lord, Our Lady, all the angels and saints as we visited these shrines, encouraging us not only to lead pilgrimages … but to write about them, to make programs on them.”

These video contributions were intended for the benefit of others. Indeed, Penny co-hosted more than 200 television programs, most often filmed at shrines, sanctuaries and other pilgrimage sites.

The network shows, DVDs and the books would bring to life for viewers topics ranging from miracles of the Eucharist, the True Cross and the Child Jesus, as well as the many faces of Mary, the angels, popular and should-be-popular saints, visionaries, mystics and stigmatists — all in the very heart of the Church. Through these efforts, they opened the eyes of many to the wonders of the faith.

“They have done more single-handedly to promote the lives of the saints than anyone else in the last 50 years,” said Doug Keck, president and COO of EWTN. “Penny herself was an indomitable woman of faith, who was cut from the same ethnic cloth as her longtime friend Mother Angelica. Her strong spirit and powerful drive to serve Christ and his Church will truly be missed by all who knew her.”

Similarly, Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa came to know Penny and Bob Lord well when he would frequently and happily run into them at EWTN.

“She wanted to share with people the marvels of God’s love and action in the world, so she spent herself, in a loving relationship with her husband, Bob, in scouring the world to teach about Our Lord, his Blessed Mother and the saints and the various miracles by which the Lord continues to touch the world,” Father Pacwa noted. “From such a perspective, she also sought to touch human hearts. We will miss her greatly.”

People who traveled with the Lords on pilgrimages overseas and many who went with the Lords to holy places via EWTN also came to know this about Penny.

“She was very much a mother to pilgrims,” said one woman who wished to remain anonymous. She and her sister went on more than five pilgrimages led by the Lords. “[Penny] loved her pilgrims. Each person was special to her. She cared about the saints, and she wanted people to know them, care about them; realize our faith included a big family, and we were part of that family.”


Personal Reflections

Peter Gagnon, EWTN’s vice president of programming and production, witnessed the same qualities in the more than 20 years he has known and grown close to the Lords. He attended their 50th anniversary celebration, and his family had the pleasure of staying with the Lords at their Holy Family Mission in Morrilton.

“She reminded me of Mother Angelica, in the aspect that she was one of the staunchest defenders of the Church,” Gagnon related. “Her love for Our Lady, the saints and especially the Blessed Sacrament was always evident in her words and actions.”

Gagnon has many fond memories of Penny, from the weekly calls she made to him to check on his progress when he was quite ill to the time the Lords were in town and he told Penny that he had just gotten engaged.

“Penny said, ‘Well, you’re not getting married without my approval.’ So, of course, we met for lunch, and Penny and Sharon (my wife) fell in love with each other instantly. Penny took me aside and said, ‘You done good!’ I then knew I had her approval.”

Warsaw also has great memories of the advice Penny shared with him.

“So many times throughout the years, Penny would admonish me to remember that my patron saint is St. Michael the Archangel and to never forget that, like St. Michael, it was my job to protect and defend Mother’s mission,” he explained. “I always appreciated her ‘gentle’ reminders. She was an amazing and wonderful woman.”

Keck emphasized something else the Lords constantly exemplified to everyone.

“They always embodied the kind of ‘couple power’ that a true sacramental marriage produces,” he noted.


The Holy Family Mission

In 2000, the Lord also inspired Penny to build Holy Family Mission in Morrilton, on 83 acres of donated land. There, they built a replica of the Holy House of Loreto and added a retreat center.

It was always a team effort of husband and wife working together, leading pilgrimages and making television series to receiving awards. In 2001, the Lords received the prestigious Poverello Award from Franciscan University of Steubenville. They also won an award from the Polish Film Festival for their documentary on St. Maximilian Kolbe.

But it was not any of the awards that made Penny Lord so memorable and outstanding a person to others. It was the sincerity with which she lived the two great commandments.

“The immediate greeting was always one of overwhelming love coming from her,” Father Pacwa well remembers.

“She looked for ways to express her love for the people she met. Yet she was at the same time completely focused on proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ to everyone. She was centered on a mission of love for God and for the neighbor she encountered so exuberantly.”

Gagnon emphasized a similar memory of Penny that stands out. When “she would say, ‘We love you’ as their famous sign off at the end of each show, she really meant it,” he said. “I was truly blessed to call her my friend.”

Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.