Mother Angelica: America’s Nun | Paul Kengor | CWR's The Dispatch
If we’re looking for the most influential American Catholic at the turn of the century, and at least into the young 21st century, male or female, I would vote for Mother Angelica.
The first time I encountered the unforgettable person of Mother Angelica was the mid-1990s. I was in graduate school, a former Catholic-turned-agnostic, but searching. I was coming back to the Catholic faith, it would turn out, but first through the arms of Protestant Evangelicalism.
Whether in my car or living room, I would flip through the channels on my radio or TV in search for Christian programming. As for the radio, there were no Catholic stations. Not one. They were all “Christian” stations, meaning Evangelical. As for TV, there were, much like still today, “Christian” stations comprised of a vague Protestant programming, most of it very poor quality and extremely loose theology—often wild, embarrassing, and thoroughly unconvincing (if not repellent) to a skeptic searching for answers. In fact, to this day, when you check your DirecTV or Dish Network guide, you can find a half-dozen or so such stations (all non-Catholic), which my Protestant friends and colleagues are embarrassed by.
And then one day I found Mother Angelica on my TV. She had a strikingly blue-collar style, reminding me of my Western Pennsylvania/Italian family roots. That was fitting, really, since she was raised not too far from me. I’ve driven through her so-called Akron-Canton region many times. This folksy nun from the town that houses the NFL Hall of Fame was tough. She was no sophisticate. That wasn’t her desire or approach—quite the contrary. That’s a bit ironic, because the television and larger media network that she was growing is today very sophisticated. The EWTN media conglomerate is distinctly theological, thoughtful, orthodox, polished, high-brow—from the TV channel to the mass network of radio affiliates, which I can pick up in the car almost anywhere, or via Sirius radio, my computer, and my phone.
That was what this little nun from Canton bequeathed. And it is no small achievement.
Today, I watch EWTN television more than any other channel.