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Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, PCPA (born Rita Antoinette Rizzo on April 20, 1923) is an Americanmarker Roman Catholic nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network. In 1944 she entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan religious order for women, as a postulant, and a year later she was admitted to the order as a novice. She went on to found a new house for the order in 1962 in Irondale, Alabamamarker, where the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is located, and in 1996 she initiated the building of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels monastery in Hanceville, Alabamamarker. Mother Angelica hosted shows on EWTN until she suffered a stroke in 2001. She continues to reside at the monastery in Hanceville.

Early childhood

The future Mother Angelica was born Rita Antoinette Rizzo, on April 20, 1923 in Canton, Ohiomarker. She was the only child of John and Mae Helen Rizzo (née Gianfrancesco). Her father abandoned the family when Rita was very young, and her parents divorced in 1929. Her mother maintained full custody of Rita, but struggled with chronic depression and poverty. Her maternal grandparents kept Rita at times.

Rita's childhood was marred by poverty and unhappiness as she grew up during the Great Depression. Looking back upon this time in her life, Angelica described herself and her mother as being "like a pair of refugees. We were poor, hungry, and barely surviving on odd jobs before Mother learned the dry cleaning business as an apprentice to a Jewish tailor in our area. Even then, we pinched pennies just to keep food on the table." Due to the many responsibilities at home which fell upon young Rita, her school work suffered. Rita also suffered from prejudice because of her parents' divorce.

By the age of 16, Rita realized that her mother's dry-cleaning job was a dead end so she began searching for work for her mother. Through Rita's efforts, her mother got a better job that provided some relief from their dire poverty.

Reports of miracles

By 1941, a stomach ailment from which Rita had suffered since 1939 required medical attention. By November of that year, x-rays revealed serious abnormalities in her stomach and intestines. The pain continued to worsen, with no alleviation. Doctors were unable to do anything to relieve her suffering or remedy the ailment. Once again, Mae and Rita turned to their faith.

After praying the novena, Rita still suffered from severe abdominal pain. She went to bed the night of January 17, 1943, with doubts about the entire episode. During the middle of the night, she experienced the worst stomach pain ever, although it lasted only a moment. The next morning, Rita found that she had no pain whatsoever. She believed that God had performed a miracle. This experience profoundly touched Rita's life and led her to a very deep love for God. Angelica traces her lifelong commitment to God to this healing.

Early adulthood and religious vocation

After graduating from high school in 1941, Rita tried many odd jobs. She began working at Timken Roller Bearing Company. Following work each day, she would stop at a local parish and pray the stations of the cross. She frequently attended Mass.

One evening in the summer of 1944, Rita stopped at a church to pray. Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, Rita felt God was calling her to be a nun. She sought guidance from a local parish priest who encouraged her to begin visiting convents. Her first visit was to the Sisters of St. Joseph in Buffalo, New Yorkmarker. This active order felt, however, that Rita was better suited for a contemplative order. She also visited Saint Paul's Shrine of Perpetual Adoration, a facility operated by an order of cloistered contemplative nuns, located in Cleveland, Ohiomarker. When visiting this Order, Rita felt as if she were at home. The Order accepted her as a postulant, asking her to enter on August 15, 1944.

The one heartache that Rita suffered was leaving her mother, who was very much opposed to her daughter's pursuing the religious life. So Rita secretly planned her departure. On August 14, she wrote her mother a letter. When Mae found it on the morning of August 15, Rita had already arrived at her destination. In part the letter read: "When you receive this letter, I will be in Cleveland. I have entered the Adoration Monastery at 40th and Euclid. You know it better as St. Paul's Shrine.... Something happened to me after my cure. What it was, I don't know. I fell completely in love with Our Lord. To live in the world for these past nineteen months has been very difficult. I love you very much and I have not forgotten what you have done for me. Please trust Him ... I ask your blessing that I may reach the heights I desire. I love you very much."

Early religious life

On August 15, 1944, Rita Antoinette Rizzo became Sister Rita, when she arrived at Saint Paul's Shrine in Cleveland and entered the Adoration Monastery of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (a cloistered contemplative order).

As a postulant, Sister was introduced to the religious life. She joined the nuns in prayer, adoration, and manual labor. Among her early assignments were working in the laundry, baking altar breads, working in the kitchen, and cleaning floors. Before long, though, Rita's knees began to cause her problems so her work assignments were altered. On November 8, 1945, Rita was invested as a Poor Clare nun. She received the brown Franciscan habit and white novice veil. She received a new name and title: Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation.

During her time as a novice, a wealthy couple offered their mansion to the nuns so that a new foundation could be established. Their mansion was located in Canton, Ohiomarker, Angelica's hometown.

Final vows and leadership in the convent

After the move to Sancta Clara Monastery in Canton, her knee problem was alleviated. On January 2, 1947 Angelica made her first profession of vows. On January 2, 1953, Sister Angelica made her solemn profession of vows.

Amid her caring for the spiritual needs of the novices and her other duties, Sister continued to help with the household chores. One such chore was scrubbing the floor with an electric scrubbing machine. While performing this task one day, she had a serious accident. Losing her balance on the soapy floor, Angelica fell to her knees and was flung against the wall back first. Her spine was seriously injured. In the following months the injury worsened and the pain was quite unbearable. Finally nearly two years after the accident, she was hospitalized and fitted with a body cast. Six weeks of traction proved to be no help, and so surgery followed.

The night before the operation, fearing the worst, Angelica made a deal with the Lord: "God! You didn't bring me this far just to lay me out on my back for life. Please, Lord Jesus, if You allow me to walk again I will build a monastery for Your glory. And I will build it in the South!" After four months of hospitalization, Angelica was released, able to walk again.

Founding of Our Lady of the Angels

Keeping the pledge she made before her surgery, Angelica began making preparations to establish a new monastery. After seeking all necessary permissions and raising funds by making and selling fishing lures, Angelica and four other sisters headed south. Our Lady of the Angels Monastery was officially established in Irondale, Alabamamarker on May 20, 1962.

The first postulant to be received was Mae Francis (Sister Mary David), Angelica's mother. A few months later Sister Mary Veronica, the former Abbess of the Sancta Clara Monastery, transferred to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.

Founding of EWTN

By 1976, Angelica had written 50 booklets and recorded 150 audio cassette teaching tapes. When she was given the opportunity to make video tape programs for television, she realized the impact television could have in spreading the Catholic faith. She also gained national attention with her speeches. She began taping a local Catholic teaching series for airing local CBS affiliate 42 WBMG (now WIATmarker). Shortly after this, Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network wanted to begin airing her program over his satellite network CBN (now ABC Family Channel). Additionally, Christian television WCFC 38 (now WCPXmarker) out of Chicago began airing her program in 1977. She visited their station as a guest on Among Friends, a local Christian show produced locally by that station. After that visit, she stated, "I must have one of these."

In the late 1970s, WBMG was scheduled to air a controversial movie from the CBS Network. Angelica refused to continue producing shows at that station unless they chose to preempt it. WBMG refused, so she ended the show temporarily. Shortly after, she was a guest on Jim Bakker's PTL Club. At that time she taped a few shows to air there as well as on CBN and WCFC. She visited there periodically throughout 1978 and 1979. At that point she began the vision of building her own cable channel.

In 1980, a garage behind the monastery was converted into a television studio. Angelica was then able to tape her programs without leaving the monastery. They continued to air on various Christian stations while she began planning to buy satellite space to launch her own Catholic Cable channel. After many problems and glitches, Angelica signed on her cable channel on August 15, 1981 and named it Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). This service aired via satellite to cable companies and home satellite dishes which it still does today.

Initially, EWTN was on the air from 7 pm to 12 midnight daily. They televised mass weekly, Mother Angelica Live (a talk show), Catholic shows produced from various Catholic groups, children's Christian programs, Life Is Worth Living with Bishop Sheen, praying of the rosary, Lutheran dramas like This Is the Life, public domain movies, cooking shows, and a few 1950s westerns. Angelica was frequently seen on the network teaching or taking questions from viewers via telephone. She hosted the "Mother Angelica Live" television program which aired on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

EWTN expanded to 12 hours a day in 1985 and 24 hours a day in 1987. By 1986, EWTN phased out the secular programs and began airing only religious programming. In 1991, ETWN began running the mass every day. In 1992, Angelica also founded WEWN to broadcast Catholic programs world-wide via short-wave radio. In 1992, EWTN began mixing Latin into some parts of the mass, which is still done today. On Christmas of 1993, Mother and her nuns began dressing in a more traditional habit and veil, including the wimple. The theming of the channel began to focus more on Catholic traditions and began to be perceived as less ecumenical.

EWTN has become a voice for American conservative and traditional Catholics, with its position on religious and social issues often mirroring that of Pope John Paul II. With the emphasis on tradition, Angelica has had feuds with some members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Most famous is the feud over a pastoral letter written by Roger Cardinal Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles over teachings surrounding the Eucharist and the liturgy. After this dispute, EWTN added a large theology department with conservative priests, theologians, deacons, and lay people to make sure EWTN is in line with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1996, Angelica began groundbreaking on a new Monastery in Hanceville, Alabamamarker called the Shrine Of The Most Blessed Sacrament. It was built with private donations. The nuns moved to this shrine in 1999. The friars remained in Irondale. When the shrine was completed in 1999, the daily mass was telecast from there. In 2000, the daily mass telecast originated from Irondale. EWTN airs several benediction services from that monastery.

Angelica stepped down from control of EWTN in 2000 and handed control to a board of lay people. In 2001, she suffered health setbacks, especially strokes. Her first stroke occurred in the fall of 2001. She continued taping her show twice a week. On Christmas Eve, she suffered another stroke. This affected her speech and she has stopped doing shows. Reruns of her old Mother Angelica Live show appear regularly on the network. Also, reruns of her 70's show, that aired on CBN and PTL, now called "Catholic Classics", air regularly on EWTN.

Angelica taped a recitation of The Holy Rosary with Mother Angelica and the Nuns in 2003 which airs regularly. With the exception of the occasions when the cameras pan over to Angelica and her nuns during the live benediction services, she stopped making live appearances on EWTN at the end of 2001.

Today, Angelica is still living in the monastery. She is the second oldest nun. She participates in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament a few hours a day at the shrine.


  • Time Magazine once described Angelica as "arguably the most influential Roman Catholic woman in America."
  • Mother Angelica's Private and Pithy Lessons from the Scriptures by Raymond Arroyo was listed November 2, 2008 on the New York Times Best Sellers list of advice and how-to books.


In 1973, Angelica began writing booklets on the spiritual life. She has since authored 53 books, which are published and distributed by Our Lady of the Angels monastery.

  • Journey into Prayer
  • In the Shadow of His Light
  • In His Sandals
  • The Father's Splendor
  • I Am His Temple
  • The Fruits of His Love
  • The Promised Woman
  • Sons of Light
  • Three Keys to the Kingdom
  • Inside the Kingdom
  • His Silent Presence
  • Jesus Needs Me
  • The Divine Personality of Jesus
  • Ad Lib with the Lord
  • Living Prayer
  • Dawn on the Mountain
  • My Life in the Rosary
  • To Leave and Yet to Stay
  • The Healing Power of Suffering
  • No Greater Love
  • Living Way of the Cross
  • Knowing God's Will
  • Two Wills—His and Mine

  • Sharing God Together
  • Sentinels Before the Bread of Life
  • Encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit
  • My Life in the Sacraments
  • The Mass in My Life
  • Mi Vida En El Rosario
  • Sweeping the Temple Clean
  • Love is Not Loved
  • Holiness is For Everyone
  • Jesus My Savior
  • In Praise of Goodness
  • Kidi-Book and Kidi-Kolor-Book Series
  • Come. Follow Me
  • Healing Your Faith VS Faith Healing
  • Why Do You Stay Away?
  • His Pain—Like Mine
  • Holiness In Action
  • Holiness in a Nutshell
  • The Gift of Life
  • My Mother — the Church
  • The Family Spirit
  • Spiritual Hangovers
  • The Living Sacrament - Matrimony
  • Sympathetic Generosity
  • Rambling Thoughts
  • Struggle of a Soul's Purification
  • Before Time Began
  • Praying into Prayer


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