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Angelica, Mary - Timeline Biography

Time Period

04-20-1923 - 03-27-2016


Mother Mary Angelica was a Franciscan nun in Alabama and founder of Eternal Word Television Network, the largest religious broadcasting network in the world. Born Rita Antoinette Rizzo in Canton, Ohio, in 1923, she entered the Franciscan Order of Poor Clares at the age of 21. Her first foray into television was in 1978, with a series called 'Our Hermitage' for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. Then she supervised the building of a television studio in a monastery garage in Alabama that would become the foundation of EWTN. The FCC granted EWTN a license in 1981 and she later became the longtime host of one of its shows, 'Mother Angelica Live.' She resigned as chairman of EWTN in 2000, after the Vatican raised questions about who owned the network, and ceased other involvement the next year after suffering a stroke.

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Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, born Rita Antoinette Rizzo in Canton, Ohio, in 1923, was a Franciscan nun of Our Lady of Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. She is the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the world’s largest religious broadcaster, which airs round-the-clock Catholic programming. She also was the longtime host of the 'Mother Angelica Live' television show.

Mother Angelica entered the Franciscan Order of Poor Clares in 1944. She oversaw the establishment of a new monastery in the Birmingham suburb of Irondale in 1961. She taped her first television program, 'Our Hermitage,' in 1978. Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) aired 'Our Hermitage' to a national audience.

In 1979, Mother Angelica oversaw the building of a television studio in her monastery’s garage, which served as the foundation of EWTN. The fledgling network was granted a license from the FCC in 1981, becoming the country’s first Catholic network broadcast by satellite.

EWTN was set up as a lay-run corporation, with Mother Angelica as chairman. After two months, EWTN was being broadcast to only 300,000 homes in the United States. To gain the support of additional cable companies, Mother Angelica offered her network’s content for free. In 1983, she launched 'Mother Angelica Live,' which was nominated for an Award for Cable Excellence the following year. By 1985, EWTN was being broadcast to almost two million households. A year later, Mother Angelica decided to make EWTN a 24-hour network.

She founded the men’s Order of the Eternal Word and the women’s Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in 1987, both of which were tasked with ensuring that EWTN’s broadcasts presented Catholic orthodoxy. Beginning in the early 1990s, Mother Angelica worked to maintain the use of Latin and Gregorian chant during Masses broadcast on the network. Gaining more notice following her increasing criticisms of what she perceived to be a liberalization of the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council, citing such practices as the wider use of inclusive language and girls serving as altar servers, EWTN spread to more than four million more households worldwide.

EWTN’s first foray onto the Internet began in 1996, and Mother Angelica continued to pioneer the use radio as a broadcasting medium for her network. In 1999, she led her religious community from Birmingham to a new monastery in Hanceville, which also housed the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

As a result of long-running tensions between Mother Angelica's religious community and the Catholic hierarchy, EWTN and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery were the subjects of an official Vatican visitation in 1999, which sought to determine who controlled EWTN and whether it was the property of the Catholic Church or a lay corporation. To avoid any further controversy over the control and ownership of the network, Mother Angelica resigned her position as chairman of EWTN in 2000, reaffirming laypeople’s control of the network. After suffering a stroke, Mother Angelica’s day-to-day involvement with EWTN came to an end in 2001, although she maintained a regular presence through reruns on the channel's broadcasts.

Religious Groups

Catholicism (Western Liturgical Family): Other ARDA Links
Catholicism (Western Liturgical Family): Religious Family Tree

Related Dictionary Terms

Catholicism, Roman, Christianity, Church, Nun, Sacrament, Shrine, Vatican Council II


Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, founded by Mother Angelica- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Michael Baker
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, founded by Mother Angelica- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Michael Baker

Book/Journal Source(s)

Arroyo, Raymond, 2005. Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles New York: Doubleday.
O'Neill, Dan, 1986. Mother Angelica: Her Life Story New York: Crossroad.

Web Source(s)
EWTN Global Catholic Network

Web Page Contributor

William S. Cossen
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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