Canton: City honors Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN

1:25 AM, Oct 9, 2010   |    comments
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"She is the only woman in the history of broadcast television to found and lead a network," points out Raymond Arroyo, longtime news director of EWTN, and Mother Angelica's biographer.

On Saturday and Sunday, Canton residents and fans of her Eternal Word Television Network will gather at the Canton Civic Center, for EWTN's Family Celebration, the annual convention-type event which is usually held in the network's home city, Birmingham, Alabama.

Today, EWTN reaches a worldwide audience of nearly a billion people in 160 countries. Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, its message, which Mother Angelica virtually personifies, has not changed.

"We're on television, radio, AM and FM, shortwave, the internet," she once said. "Wherever there is rot, we're there!"

The network, which now broadcasts in seven languages and on TV, radio, and cable systems all over the world, has always been supported solely by donations. The Canton event is free to all, including non-Catholics.

"Over 30 percent of our viewers and listeners are not Catholic," says Arroyo. "That proves the universal appeal of Mother's messages. She speaks the language of the people, and that's a language she learned on the streets of southeast Canton."

Mother Angelica was born Rita Rizzo in 1923. She endured a rough early life which included poverty, a broken home, and a number of phsyical ailments. But she followed the call to become a nun in the 1940's, entering Sancta Clara Monastery on Market Avenue on Canton's north side.

"It's important to recognize one of the ladies who made an important contribution to society as a whole, and she's a daughter of Canton," the city engineer Dan Moeglin said, as he displayed custom made street signs, which will rename a portion of Market Avenue in honor of Mother Angelica.

On Friday, nearly 500 pilgrims who had come to spend the weekend at the Family Celebration in Canton, boarded nine chartered buses to tour locations which were pivotal in the nun's early life. They had come from as far as California, Arizona, and Canada.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," Barbara VandeBogart, who made the trip from her home in California, told WKYC. "I booked in May. As soon as I heard it announced on EWTN, I booked the trip."

"When she talked on the camera, she was talking to people just like herself who she had met on the streets of Canton," Arroyo said of Mother Angelica. "She absorbed and took in and understand the pain that was around her. And she brought the experience to the camera."

"Her message is one of hope, of love, and of real world American common sense, in between," Arroyo offered. "She extended her motherly embrace -- and this is a woman who really never had a family of her own -- to all her viewers, whom she actually considers her famiy."

At 87, Mother Angelica was not able to travel to Canton for the Family Celebration in her hometown. She suffered a debilitating stroke in 2001 and remains at her order's motherhouse in Birmingham. Nonetheless, it's clear her spirit will pervade the gathering, which is expected to draw thousands to the Canton Civic Center.

"Her whole life to me is very important," said VandeBogart, happy that she had booked her trip to Canton from the West Coast early. "What she has done has made a big difference in my life, a very big difference in my life."


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