EWTN head Michael Warsaw praised the life of Mother Angelica as an inspiring model of Christian faith, exhorting the 2014 graduating class of the Franciscan University of Steubenville to trust in God’s providence.
“Though Mother Angelica endured great struggles and difficulties in founding EWTN, she bore all out of love for God,” Warsaw said at the university’s May 10 commencement. “To this day, her quiet suffering still gives meaning to her life – now lived within the confines of a bed within her monastery in Alabama.”
Warsaw, who is chairman of the board and CEO of Eternal Word Television Network, Inc., received from the university an honorary doctorate in communications for leadership in evangelization through media.
In his address, he encouraged the graduates not to be concerned with what the world thinks, reminding them that sainthood can take a lifetime to attain.
“The important thing, as Mother Angelica’s life and the lives so many of the saints have shown us, is to be faithful and to persevere.”
Mother Angelica, a nun with the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, founded EWTN in Irondale, Alabama in 1981. She was a leading presence at the network and hosted a call-in show called Mother Angelica Live until she suffered a disabling stroke in 2001.
She is now 91.
Warsaw said Mother Angelica is “a truly remarkable woman” who taught that Catholics’ lives ought to be “a continual and daily prayer and offering to God, our Loving Father.”
“God is love… and we know that Christ invites us to surrender our hearts to Him and to receive from Him the inspiration and the courage to love as He loves – purely and selflessly,” Warsaw said.
He said the founding of EWTN is “a wonderful story of faith and trust in God’s providence.”
“After all Mother Angelica started EWTN a little more than 30 years ago in her monastery garage with only $200 in the bank, a small group of Poor Clare nuns with no media experience and a few sheep and goats wandering on their property in Irondale, Alabama. “
Warsaw said Mother Angelica was in “terrible health” when she founded the network at the age of 58.
“She had a high school education and had been a cloistered nun her whole life. She knew nothing about television or media,” he said. “Everyone thought she was crazy and they told her so. So why take on this important work, this impossible task? She took on the work because she was called by God to do it. It wasn’t her idea, it was His, and she embraced it.”
Warsaw cited Mother Angelica’s own reflections on her work.
“Once I get an inspiration, I never question it,” she said. “I know myself, and I believe if God wants it He has His plan… Franciscan virtue is to follow the providence of God, and God’s providence goes as far as you go.”
Warsaw said the Catholic network now reaches millions of homes worldwide in multiple languages in “every available media platform.”
He acknowledged that today, Catholics face many difficulties in an “increasingly secular society.”
“During your time here at Franciscan, you have been blessed with the opportunity to practice and to learn more about the Catholic Faith, the most important thing which we possess,” he told the commencement.
He encouraged the new graduates to live “a life which is timeless, a life which is good, and beautiful, a life which is true and which is authentically Catholic.”
In addition, he praised Franciscan University’s “vibrant culture of vocational discernment,” noting how many graduates have followed vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
“This is a special gift, both to the individuals and to the Church.”
Warsaw encouraged the graduates to focus less on a career and consider more the questions: “What does God want? What is the mission which God has given to me?”
“After all, it’s not about us, it’s about God.”
He reminded them of Mother Angelica’s own words: “you have been created by God and know Jesus for one reason: to witness to faith, and hope, and love before an unbelieving world.”
“If you are following God, He never shows you the end. It’s always a walk of faith,” he recalled Mother Angelica saying.
“Mother Angelica’s life has been a life of faith, her prayer life and obedience to God are worthy of our imitation,” the EWTN head continued. “Everything she did was an act of faith.”
“The growth of EWTN is the fruit of her cooperation with God’s grace. Our challenge is to follow Jesus as He leads us, to do what Christ asks of us.”
Franciscan University of Steubenville’s 66th commencement recognized 692 undergraduate and graduate students. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston delivered the homily at the university’s May 9 Baccalaureate Mass.