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.
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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.”