Vatican official honors Mother Angelica with Mass at St. Peter’s

March 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2017 / 11:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Rino Fisichella celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the one-year anniversary of the passing of Mother Angelica, saying the nun changed the face of the New Evangelization by riding the digital wave and using to communicate the Gospel in a fresh and appealing way.

“Before John Paul II spoke of the New Evangelization, (Mother Angelica) was able to do it concretely with television, the new way of communicating the Word of God,” Archbishop Fisichella told CNA March 27.

Because of this, he said Mother “was a New Evangelist, she concretely did the New Evangelization” alongside another major saintly personality in the U.S. at the time: Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whose cause for canonization has been opened.

“Fulton Sheen and Mother Angelica, for the whole Church they are the image, the icon of what the New Evangelization through the new media of communications means,” he said.

Head of the Vatican’s Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Fisichella celebrated Mass March 27 at the altar of St. Joseph inside St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the one-year anniversary since Mother Angelica’s death.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation founded EWTN in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She died March 27, 2016 – Easter Sunday – after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years-old.

In his homily for the Mass, which was concelebrated by former Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi and attended by journalists from various media outlets as well as Hungarian Ambassador to the Holy See Eduard Habsburg, Fisichella praised Mother as someone whose legacy would continue to last.

A year after her death, “we try to remember her words, her preaching – because it was (a type of) preaching – her witness and the work she did for the Church,” he said.

“The mystery of death raises questions in all of us, but it’s still a mystery,” he said. “We live and we are in front of a death to give sense to our lives.”

He pointed to the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the day’s first reading, who said that “no longer shall there be an old man who does not round out his full lifetime.”

“I think this word of the prophet can also be applied to Mother Angelica,” he said, explaining that “the sense of our lives, the sense of her life was determined by an encounter. She encountered Jesus Christ in her life, and for this reason she consecrated her whole life to Christ.”

Because of this Mother Angelica was above all “a woman of faith,” he said, and recalled an expression Mother herself frequently recited: “my dear friends, faith is what gets you started; hope is what keeps you going; love is what brings you to the end.”

Mother Angelica, he said, “was sustained by faith, she was a witness of hope, but love moved her entire life.”

Pointing to a passage from the day’s Gospel from John in which a nobleman, after learning that Jesus healed his son, “believed through the Word what Jesus had spoken to him, and he went his way.”

“I think that is beautiful to reflect on Mother Angelica’s life with this expression,” Fisichella said. “She believed through the Word that Jesus spoke to her, she believed and there is no other reason.”

“She believed and all that she created was a consequence of this faith, of this encounter of faith. And then she went her way, and her way is what today millions of people can watch, can listen to, can reflect on.”

EWTN, he said, is not just a television network, but “a work and consequence of this vocation, of this encounter of Mother Angelica with Christ.”

“This was her vocation, this she understood as the gift that Jesus himself gave to her. And she did it in a very strong way,” he said, noting how she was able to communicate the Gospel on TV “sine glossa,” meaning “without adding” or interpreting.

At times Mother even caused trouble with people, he said, explaining that “every time we announce the Gospel, we give trouble to someone.” But what Mother did was offer “a challenge.”

It was above all a challenge “to find the sense of your life, especially in a culture in which indifference and atheism is, it seems to be, in first place for many people,” he said.

Referencing another passage from Isaiah that says “‘they shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyard they plant,” the archbishop said Mother Angelica continues to live through EWTN’s witness.

“Mother Angelica’s vocation continues to give witness to the world of today, with your ability, capacity, will, to announce the Gospel of the Lord,” he told employees of the organization attending the Mass.

Fisichella closed his homily with another quote from Mother, who said that “everything starts with one person. I don’t care if you are five or 105, God from all eternity, chose you to be where you are at this time in history, and he chose you to change the world.”

“We keep these words in our hearts and in our minds, like a new challenge one year after her death, to remember the task that everybody should have in this service to the Church,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are five or 105, what is important is that God, from all eternity, chose you.”

After the Mass veteran Vatican journalist Joan Lewis, Rome Bureau Chief for EWTN and former employee of the Holy See Press Office’s Vatican Information Service, recalled the moment when she was “commissioned” by Mother Angelica after accepting the job as bureau chief.

While Mother was already speechless after suffering a debilitating stroke, Lewis told CNA that she approached Mother, who was in a wheelchair, and knelt down so the two could look each other in the face.

“It was very moving for me because although she couldn’t talk, she blessed my ears, my mouth, my hands and my eyes, so that I would use all of those to do what she had done for so many years, which was to bring the Word of the Lord, the teachings of the Church to the world,” Lewis said.

“So it was her example, even when she couldn’t speak, that really infused in me the desire to go ahead and do her work,” she said, explaining that Mother Angelica was particularly inspiring for what she did as a woman.

“What a wonderful woman courage she was, of vision, of foresight, a person who just didn’t let obstacles get in her way,” Lewis said, noting that at the time, women in the United States often still hit “a glass ceiling.”

“If you were a woman, you couldn’t go any higher – you would hit this glass, but un-seen ceiling,” she said, but recalled that with Mother Angelica, “she never sensed that. There was never a barrier to whom or how she could tell the truth, and I try and remember that when I write.”

Referring to Archbishop Fisichella’s homily, Lewis said his decision to quote Mother’s phrase that “faith sets you out on the path, hope keeps you going, and love brings you to the end,” was particularly moving. “It just doesn’t get any better.”


Visionaries’ canonization would ‘complete’ the Fatima centenary

March 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Fatima, Portugal, Mar 28, 2017 / 01:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fatima’s bishop has said the centenary of the locale’s Marian apparition would not be complete without the announcement of the canonization of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the children who witnessed the apparition.

“I would consider the centenary to be incomplete without the canonization. I have had this hope. We are in time for it to be May 13, but everything depends on the exclusive competency of the Pope,” Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima said at a recent press conference.

The bishop also spoke about the news that Pope Francis approved March 23 the decree recognizing a second miracle attributed to the intercession of both siblings. This opens the way for their canonization.

Together with their cousin Lucia Santo, the brother and sister witnessed the 1917 apparitions of Mary.

Francisco and Jacinta died soon after, in 1919 and 1920, respectively. Lucia became a Carmelite nun, and died in 2005.

Bishop dos Santos Marto said he received with “enormous satisfaction the news of the approval of the miracle.”

He acknowledged that the announcement was not a surprise because “I had confident hope.” However, he said, “I must confess I was caught by surprise by the date; I didn’t expect it to be so soon.”

“After this there’s just one remaining decisive step, which belongs to the Holy Father: choosing the date and location of the canonization.”

He indicated that information will not be available until the April 20 consistory.

Also present at the press conference was the postulator for the cause of canonization of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, Sister Angela Coelho. The religious is also the vice-postulator of the cause for the beatification of Sister Lucia.

Sister Coehlo pointed out that “the little shepherds, who died at the age of 10, will be the youngest saints in the history of the Church, with the exception of child martyrs.”

She said the miracle attributed to the intercession of the blessed involves the cure of a child in Brazil. The healing began to be studied in 2013, but “more details on the case are not allowed to be revealed” because it concerns a child and the need to protect the child’s identity.

Sister  Coelho also spoke about the speed with which the theological approval came about after the medical validation of the miracle. “The theological argumentation was already prepared previously and all the documentation for Rome was immediately sent,” she said.

The postulator clarified that no announcement is expected concerning the process of beatification for Sister Lucia. “That’s a separate cause,” she explained.


This historic black Catholic grade school could get shut down

March 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Birmingham, Ala., Mar 27, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After 111 years of serving the community of Birmingham, Alabama, the city’s only African American Catholic elementary school could close due to financial struggles.

Over its long history, Our Lady of Fatima has become an integral part of the community, serving students from all backgrounds: of its 64 children, 11 percent are Catholic, and 89 percent are non-Catholic.

“It’s looked at as a community school,” the school’s principal Al Logan told the Birmingham Times.

“Most of these children are neighborhood children and their parents are struggling to send them here for a Catholic education,” staff member Cynthia Pinkard noted, according to CBS WIAT.

Closing the school “would really hurt the neighborhood,” she said.  

Our Lady of Fatima is the oldest Catholic elementary school in Birmingham, serving students from pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. The school is located in the Titusville area, and is also connected with Our Lady of Fatima parish in the Diocese of Birmingham.

“We’ve seen a decline in enrollment,” Logan said. “It’s just because of the way our housing market went a few years ago. It all plays into that same arena. I don’t think it has personally anything to do with Catholic or non-Catholic (schools); it just happens.”

Logan believes that the school can raise the necessary funds to keep the school open for at least another year. The school is asking for $150,000 in donations for the 2017-2018 academic year, which needs to be raised by August. The Diocese of Birmingham has chipped in over the years, but the school will need more to keep its doors open.

“I really think we will be able to keep it open,” Logan said, saying that they have already received donations from all across the country from places like Indiana and Florida.

“With the support of everyone who’s interested in seeing a good, Catholic education be afforded to the kids, we’ll find a way to keep the school open,” he added.

However, Our Lady of Fatima is not the only school on the chopping block. Across the country, private and Catholic schools in particular have faced financial trouble due to lower enrollment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there has been a two percent enrollment decrease in private schools over the past 20 years for elementary or secondary students. Over 1,000 Catholic schools have also been forced to close or team up with other schools since 2006.

Looking to the future, Logan is hopeful that the school will receive the money necessary to keep the school open and asked for continued donations.

“We would like for the community to step up and to give us whatever they can donate, and likewise, anyone who would like to (donate) from any city or location in the country.”

Donations to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School can be received by phone at 205-251-8395 or through the mail at 630 1st Street S., Birmingham, AL, 35205.


Mother Angelica: A female powerhouse in a supposedly sexist Church

March 27, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Birmingham, Ala., Mar 27, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It was September 1987, and Pope John Paul II had just arrived in Los Angeles after traveling around the United States. The Pope was greeted in the City of Angels by a closed-door meeting with a group of progressive bishops who had a bone to pick with several Church traditions.

One of four chosen representatives, Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, spoke to the pope about female ordination:

“Women seek…(a church) that teaches and shows by example the co-discipleship of the sexes as instruments of God’s kingdom. They seek a church where the gifts of women are equally accepted and appreciated…where the feminine is no longer subordinate but seen in a holistic mutuality with the masculine as forming the full image of the Divine,” he said.

Meanwhile in Alabama, a woman of the Church named Mother Angelica had just thrown her cable network, which reached more than 2 million homes at the time, into 24-hour coverage territory. During the 1987 papal trip, the EWTN Network took on the then-unprecedented task of live, unedited, constant coverage of the Holy Father’s visit.

And when word reached the spunky nun of the Milwaukee bishop’s remarks to the Pope during the trip, she couldn’t help but chime in with her opinion.

“Women in the priesthood, that’s just a power play, that’s ridiculous,” Mother Angelica said the next day.  

“As it is women have more power in the Church than anybody. They built and run the schools. God has designed that men be priests, and we can’t afford to deny God his sovereign rights,” she said, as recalled in her biography by Raymond Arroyo.

If anyone has any doubts as to whether ordination is necessary for leadership and influence in the Church, they need look no further than the media mogul nun herself to be proven wrong, said Catholic talk show host and media consultant Teresa Tomeo.  

“Not only was she a prominent international media personality, because of her work on air and her great shows, but she was a foundress of a major religious network and she was a CEO of that network while being on the air, which is something that few women in the secular world accomplish,” Tomeo told CNA.

“And here she is accomplishing this in the Catholic Church, which is supposedly so sexist and backward according to the world. She’s breaking barriers that these powerful women in secular media can’t even touch.”

In 1981, at a time when women were still struggling for places of prominence in the world of broadcasting, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation launched Eternal Word Television Network, which today 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.

She’s breaking barriers that these powerful women in secular media can’t even touch.

Besides founding EWTN, Mother Angelica is also credited with building a monastery, a shrine, and establishing two religious orders.

Mother Angelica passed away on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

After her passing, the praises of Mother Angelica were sung from both the secular and Church media, with many recognizing her as a strong example of female leadership.

In his tribute, John Allen of Crux wrote:  

“Today there’s a great deal of ferment about how to promote leadership by women in the Church in ways that don’t involve ordination, a conversation Pope Francis himself has promoted. In a way, however, debating that question in the abstract seems silly, because we already have a classic, for-all-time example of female empowerment in Mother Angelica.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, remembered her as a “devout believer and media pioneer” in a statement following her death.

“Mother Angelica reflected the Gospel commission to go forth and make disciples of all nations, and like the best evangelists, she used the communications tools of her time to make this happen. She displayed a unique capacity for mission and showed the world once again the vital contribution of women religious,” he said.

Her vigorous leadership and vision in a Church with all-male clergy came from her security in knowing her identity before God, Tomeo added.

“Bottom line is that she knew who she was in Christ, she knew that she was designed in the image and likeness of God, that we’re male and female, we’re equal but we’re different,” she said.

“And she knew that God has a special role for her, and that he chose her for a specific reason, and that you can do all things through Christ as St. Paul tells us.”

Mother Angelica doesn’t stand alone in the line of formidable female figures in the Church, either, Tomeo noted. She succeeded other spiritual giants like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena, and is joined by other women in the contemporary world, who are working to make a difference in the Church.

For years to come, Mother Angelica will be remembered for her authenticity and punchy humor, and her ability to preach the Gospel with love, Tomeo added.

“She was funny, she always gave me hope that no matter how many mistakes any of us make, God is always going to allow us to come home,” she said.

“I think that we have just begun to unpack her wisdom. I think…for decades and centuries, she’s going to be seen as one of the greatest evangelists in America.”


This article was originally published April 1, 2016.