Catholics mourn passing of TV mogul nun Mother Mary Angelica
Mother Mary Angelica, the folksy Roman Catholic nun who used a monastery garage to begin a television ministry that grew into a world religious media empire, has died at 92.
Known to millions of viewers simply as Mother Angelica, the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network died on Easter Sunday at the rural monastery in Hanceville where she lived, about 45 miles north of Birmingham, Alabama, according to EWTN chairman and chief executive Michael Warsaw.
"Mother has always, and will always, personify EWTN, the network which she founded. In the face of sickness and long-suffering trials, Mother's example of joy and prayerful perseverance exemplified the Franciscan spirit she held so dear. We thank God for Mother Angelica and for the gift of her extraordinary life," Mr Warsaw said.
Mother Angelica had been in declining health since suffering a severe cerebral hemorrhage on Christmas Eve 2001. She never regained her full speaking ability and had other, less-severe strokes through the years.
Bedridden for months, she was placed on a feeding tube last year as her health slowly declined, fellow nuns at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery said.
Alabama governor Robert Bentley said Mother Angelica would live on forever in the hearts of those touched by her sermons.
"On this Easter Sunday, it is only fitting that the Lord chose today to call home one of his humble servants, Mother Angelica. She devoted her life to ministry, converting untold numbers of people to the church. She left an indelible mark on Alabama, the Catholic Church and the world as a whole," he said.
Although she had been out of the public eye for years and was no longer appearing on her trademark Mother Angelica Live show, old episodes have remained a programming staple on Eternal Word.
"We want you to know how much God loves you, and that's a lot," she told viewers at the end of an episode recorded in November 2000.
Mother Angelica displayed both deep devotion to Jesus and a comic's timing on the episode, drawing laughs when she could not reach her Bible during the opening sequence. An unseen aide hands her the book from off-camera.
"That's when you appreciate long arms," Mother Angelica deadpanned.
Born Rita Rizzo in Canton, Ohio, in 1923, she entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration monastery in Cleveland at 21 and joined other nuns in moving south to open a new monastery in Alabama in 1962.
With only 200 dollars, the nun began broadcasting a religious talk show from a TV studio put together in the monastery garage in suburban Birmingham in 1981. That show grew into Eternal Word Television Network, which has long had the blessing of the Vatican.
While critics sometimes accuse Eternal Word Television Network of being too conservative or too liberal, it says it tries to stick to the leadership of the Vatican. The network reports extensively on statements and trips by the Pope.
Despite its humble beginnings, EWTN Global Catholic Network calls itself the world's largest religious media network. It has 11 TV networks that broadcast Catholic programming to more than 258 million households in more than 145 counties and territories.
Eternal Word's radio operation includes a global shortwave broadcast; satellite and Internet radio channels; and more than 300 Catholic radio affiliates in the United States. Its print services include The National Catholic Register newspaper, the Catholic News Agency and EWTN Publishing.
The non-profit broadcaster reported total revenues of 46 million dollars (£32.6m) in 2013, the last year for which tax records are available. Of that, 45.4 million (£32.1m) came from donations.
An associated catalogue division reported revenues of 2.7 million dollars (£1.9m) in 2013, mostly from sales, records show.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Friday at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, followed by interment in the Shrine's Crypt Church.