Irondale, Ala., Dec 12, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
EWTN Global Catholic Network has presented the 2022 Mother Angelica Award to former NFL star and coach Danny Abramowicz in honor of his lifetime of service to the new evangelization.
The award was presented to Abramowicz by EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw during a Dec. 12 ceremony televised around the world by the network.
“This award was created as a way to honor people who have devoted their lives in service to the Church, particularly in the service of the new evangelization, just as Mother Angelica herself had done,” Warsaw said. “This annual award recognizes individuals who, like Mother Angelica, seek to bring others to a deeper knowledge of God.”
In looking at this year’s candidates, Warsaw said one name — Danny Abramowicz — stood above the rest. While the world remembers the former New Orleans Saint wide receiver as a football legend, the award was given to him for his greater mission, a second career serving Our Lord by evangelizing men, especially young men aged 25 to 40. That effort started with a small prayer group decades ago and eventually led him to create a widely-known national men’s ministry with men’s conferences, speaking, and other evangelization efforts, including the popular EWTN television series “Crossing the Goal.”
“Danny’s life is totally devoted to Jesus Christ, and he has been a faithful servant of the Church’s important mission of the new evangelization since retiring from football in 1999,” Warsaw said. “However, his career in football helped him develop the winning mindset that has made such a difference in his ministry.”
In an interview with CNA, Abramowicz described his reaction when Warsaw called him with the news that he was this year’s award recipient.
“I was overwhelmed. I got tears in my eyes because I knew Mother personally. I thought the world of her and served on the board for a long time,” he said. “I said, ‘Mike, are you sure you’ve got the right person?’ So I’m honored, thrilled, and overwhelmed.”
Abramowicz’s winning approach was developed in high school, where he excelled on the football field despite being smaller than his fellow students. It continued in college, despite being offered only one scholarship, again because of his size. And it continued during the NFL draft, where he wasn’t chosen to play for the New Orleans Saints until the 17th round. But because of his indominable spirit, Abramowicz not only would be named All-Pro by Sporting News and the Associated Press, he would also end his career holding the NFL record for catching a pass in 105 consecutive games. Even after retiring, Abramowicz spent five years as a radio analyst for Saints games, served as a special-teams coach for the Chicago Bears, and returned to the Saints as an offensive coordinator.
But Abramowicz also shares that there was a downside to all his fame, something he freely and effectively shares with the men he has spent the second half of his life helping — alcoholism — and which often makes him more relatable to the men to whom he speaks. That’s why New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who lauds Abramowicz for helping him start a men’s conference, says: “I consider a high point [of Danny’s life] his sharing of a low point.”
Abramowicz has authored several books, including “Spiritual Workout of a Former Saint,” in which he uses NFL workout techniques to increase spiritual strength and reenergize the soul.
During the televised award ceremony, viewers heard reflections from Abramowicz’s numerous friends, who described him as genuine, unfailingly kind, passionate, collaborative, serious about his faith but not himself, open to God and to conversion, not afraid to make mistakes, and able to challenge and inspire others — including those who paid tribute to him.
But the most touching part of the interview occurred when Warsaw asked Abramowicz about the recent loss of his wife, Claudia, after 56 years of marriage. During their marriage, the pair raised three children in a close-knit Catholic family, which now includes four grandsons, and made trips to Fatima, Lourdes, the Holy Land, and the Vatican, where they met Pope John Paul II. While Abramowicz’s description of his wife’s final moments brought many in the audience to tears, it also served as a testament to what married life is supposed to be and to two lives well lived.
Abramowicz has insured that his wife’s goodness lives on through the Claudia Abramowicz and Family Legacy Fund, which has been set up to evangelize and train young people aged 25 to 40 to participate in the new evangelization, following the example of Mother Angelica.
In presenting Abramowicz with the Mother Angelica Award — a bronze sculpture of Mother Angelica, commissioned from Artist Kelly Somey of Asheville, North Carolina — Warsaw summed up the many reasons Abramowicz was honored, saying: “On behalf of our EWTN family, it is my privilege to present you with this year’s Mother Angelica Award in honor of your lifetime of devotion to your faith, to your family, and to your work with men and the impact that you’ve had in so many ways by evangelizing through these years. There is no one more deserving of this award than you.”
Further information about the Mother Angelica Award and the ceremony can be found at www.ewtn.com/award.
In its 42nd year, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to more than 400 million television households in more than 150 countries and territories. EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM and FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; one of the largest Catholic websites in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.
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