The Vatican Remembers Mother Angelica

Richard SontagChurch News, Pope Francis

(CNA/EWTN News) After the death of Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN, on Easter Sunday, many in and around the Vatican praised the bold nun’s courageous witness at a time of crisis in the Church, and expressed their appreciation for the work EWTN continues to do.

In an April 1 Memorial Mass for Mother Angelica in Rome, Cardinal George Pell praised the nun’s effectiveness in spreading the Good News, and thanked God for “her message, her courage and her faith.”

He prayed that the Church in the United States would “throw up other giants equally unexpectedly to help strengthen our faith and lead us to Christ.”

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, a Poor Clare, has been widely credited for having changed both Catholic media and the face of Catholicism in the United States. She passed away on March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

Cardinal Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, offered Mass April 1 for the repose of Mother Angelica’s soul at the parish of St. Anne’s in Vatican City. The 6 p.m. celebration coincided with her 11 a.m. funeral in Hanceville, Ala.

In his homily, Cardinal Pell compared Mother Angelica’s life and work at EWTN to the day’s Gospel from John, saying that “the spread and effectiveness” of EWTN, founded with an investment of just $200, “was as unexpected as the apostles’ huge catch of fish.”

He also jested about Mother Angelica’s “boisterous” TV personality in spite of being a contemplative Franciscan nun, provoking laughter when he said that her religious name, Mary Angelica, was perhaps a bit “incongruous,” since “she was not angelic in any conventional sense.”

Mother came from a broken home, the cardinal noted, with a father who abandoned her at the age of five and a mother who struggled with depression. Additionally, she did poorly in school, aside from becoming the drum majorette in her high school marching band.

The Poor Clare’s life, then, “brings a message of encouragement for all those who were or are children from broken homes,” he said, noting that many children from such backgrounds “are tempted to be resentful, short of self-confidence, uncertain of their ability to contribute or build a good family.”

“Mother Angelica is one more example of what can be achieved from difficult beginnings…She truly cast fire upon the earth.”

Mother Angelica launched Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in 1981. Today it 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. It is the largest religious network in the world.

In addition to EWTN, Mother also founded the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and the Knights of the Holy Eucharist.

Her decision to open Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, Ala. in 1962, a largely Protestant region, was “an unlikely launching pad for an international television network, although probably not quite as unpromising a spot as Bethlehem and Nazareth,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Pell noted that in a short time EWTN “pioneered the digital revolution in broadcasting, and many experts visited to examine just what they were doing. There was an enormous development and progression.”

Part of this is due to Mother’s blunt, conservative and effective way communicating, he said, noting that she could at times be divisive and even “over-the-top” in some ways, but “thank God she spoke that way.”

Concelebrants at the Mass in Rome were Msgr. Dario Eduardo Vigano, Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, Vatican spokesman and Director of the Holy See Press Office, and Fr. Jeff Kirby.

In attendance at the Mass were the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett, and Paraguay’s ambassador to the Holy See Esteban Kriskovich, as well as representatives from numerous religious, Vatican and secular organizations.

In addition to Cardinal Pell, many other voices in the Vatican have expressed their appreciation for Mother Angelica and for the work and apostolate of EWTN.

In a March 29 letter to EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Warsaw, Vatican spokesman and Director of the Holy See Press Office Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ and Vice-director of the Holy See Press Office Greg Burke voiced their appreciation for Mother’s work.

They praised not only Mother Angelica’s personal commitment to evangelization, but also the rapid growth of EWTN and the dedication of the network’s employees.

“We would like to send our condolences to the entire EWTN family on the death of Mother Angelica,” Lombardi and Burke wrote. “She was certainly a powerful witness in her television apostolate, and a great source of good for Catholic media.”

The two said they have “watched with awe the growth of the network over the years,” and have been first-hand witnesses not only of Mother Angelica’s great dedication to the Lord, “but also those who have shared her vision and come to work with EWTN.”

They offered prayers for both Mothers’ eternal happiness, and for “the continued success of EWTN.”

Similarly, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow also voiced his sorrow for Mother Angelica’s passing in a March 31 letter to both Warsaw and Reverend Mother Dolores Marie, who currently oversees Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, which Mother Angelica founded.

In addition to being the Archbishop of Krakow, the cardinal was the longtime secretary to St. John Paul II both before and during his 27 year pontificate, and as such had met Mother Angelica when she visited the Polish Pope in Rome.

Mother Angelica, he said, “was a wonderful woman dedicated to Jesus and to the Church. She devoted her life to ministry, converting untold numbers of people to the Church.”

The Poor Clare left “an indelible mark on the Catholic Church and the world as a whole,” he said.

Cardinal Dziwisz praised her as someone will always be remembered for her “personal sermons,” and said she “will live on forever in the hearts of all those that her sermons have touched through her gift to the world, the Eternal Word Television Network.”

In a letter from Pope Francis that was read aloud at Mother Angelica’s April 1 funeral, the Pope said that he was “saddened” to learn of her death, and extended his “heartfelt condolences to the Poor Clares of the Perpetual Adoration of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, and to the EWTN community.”

Francis expressed his gratitude “for Mother Angelica’s service to the Gospel through social communications and through a life of prayer,” and commended her soul “to the merciful love of Almighty God.”