Mother Angelica, founder of Birmingham’s EWTN, dies on Easter Sunday

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EWTN founder Mother Angelica (Credit: EWTN)

Mother Angelica, the founder of Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. (EWTN), died Easter Sunday; she was 92.

An Ohio native, Mother Angelica founded EWTN in Irondale, right outside of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1981. A member of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, an order also founded in Irondale, Mother Angelica’s vision for a global Catholic network became a reality, with the station now offering 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries, according to EWTN’s website.

“Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve,” said EWTN board member and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. “She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. She had a lot of help, obviously, but that was part of her genius.”

Beyond building EWTN, many Catholics give credit to Mother Angelica for reviving the church in the United States.

“Mother Angelica has been compared to a powerful medieval abbess, said Mark Brumley, president of the California-based Catholic publishing house, Ignatius Press. “But the mass-media instrument she created has extended her influence for the Gospel far beyond that of any medieval abbess, and even beyond that of many of the last century’s most prominent American bishops.  Her long-term contribution is hard to assess, of course, but there is no doubt that Mother Angelica has helped root the Church in America more deeply in the Catholic Tradition; and at the same time, she has helped make the Church more innovative in how she communicates that tradition. All Catholics in America should thank God for Mother Angelica.”

Shortly after retiring from EWTN in 2000, Mother Angelica suffered a stroke which left the charismatic and gregarious orator confined to Hanceville, Alabama’s, Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, mostly without the capacity to speak. But members of her order, and those closest to her at the network say it may have been in those years she did her most impactful work.

“While she was unable to speak at length and sound off on the controversies and confusions of the day, what she did through prayer in her suffering was remarkable,” said Raymond Arroyo, host of the network’s The World Over. “It’s certainly not our efforts that have kept EWTN on the air and allowed it to reach people in amazing ways. I attribute it all to the suffering of that one woman in Hanceville.”

Many Catholics and non-Catholics alike took to Twitter Sunday evening in remembrance of Mother Angelica, including Congressman Robert Aderholt and State Rep. Jack Williams.

Services honoring Mother Angelica’s life and mourning her death will be held beginning Monday, March 28th with a memorial Mass from the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, and concluding Friday, April 1st with a Mass of Christian Burial, Procession and Rite of Committal. Full details can be found here.

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