Rita Rizzo’s early years began in Canton, Ohio with many hardships, including abandonment by her father and poverty. In her late teens, she endured severe pains in her stomach; this resulted in many doctor appointments and finally, a visit to a mystic which led to a cure through the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux. She recalls, “When the Lord came in and healed me through the Little Flower, I had a whole different attitude. I knew there was a God; I knew that God knew me and loved me and was interested in me. I didn’t know that before. All I wanted to do after my healing was give myself to Jesus.” After this experience, she grew in her love for God.
At the age of 21, without the knowledge or approval of her mother, Rita entered the Poor Clare Monastery in Cleveland, Ohio. After receiving her religious name, Sister Mary Angelica was transferred to a new Poor Clare convent, Santa Clara. It was here that Sister Angelica fell and injured her back one day while cleaning. When she was given a fifty percent chance of not being able to walk, Sister Angelica surrendered and made a promise to Christ that if she could walk after the surgery, a monastery would be constructed in the South.
“We use the talents we possess to the best of our ability and leave the results to God.”
True to her words, Mother Angelica and four sisters departed for Alabama in 1962 to found Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. Her innovative fundraisers to provide for the new monastery included selling fishing lures and roasted peanuts. With a desire to catechize and reach the average person, Mother Angelica began recording talks and printing little books about the spiritual life. She stated, “We use the talents we possess to the best of our ability and leave the results to God.” While the sisters often found themselves short of money to purchase equipment, she never let finances deter her evangelical initiatives: “Money is His problem, working for His kingdom is mine.” With such faith, Mother Angelica continued to trust God and follow each prompting of the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel. This culminated on August 15, 1981 with the first show of the Eternal Word Television Network.
“Money is His problem, working for His kingdom is mine.”
Never allowing her work at the studio to interfere with her call to be a contemplative religious, Mother Angelica remained faithful to her prayer life, which always included time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. While the EWTN television network continued to grow, Mother Angelica built a new monastery in Hanceville, Alabama, where the community still thrives today. Fifteen years after a stroke, Mother Angelica died on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016. Her life of faith as a contemplative, media evangelist, and foundress is truly a gift to the Church.