Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN)

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The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) transmits religious programming around the clock throughout the world. Its studios are located on the grounds of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Birmingham, Alabama. Under Catholic auspices, EWTN uses up-to-date technology to offer services that include television (wired and wireless cable, direct broadcast satellite), short-wave and AM/FM radio, news publishing, and online services (

The founder and supervisor of EWTN is Mother Angelica, a Franciscan nun. Born Rita Frances Rizzo on April 20, 1923 in Canton, Ohio, she joined the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (PCPA) in Cleveland on August 15, 1944. From 1946 to 1961 she lived at the Santa Clara Monastery in Canton. With an intense desire to found a new convent, Mother Angelica began exploring possibilities. In 1961 an invitation came from Archbishop Thomas Toolan of the Mobile-Birmingham Diocese to establish a new convent in his diocese. In 1962, the monastery of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated. During the early years of the Birmingham community, they found a number of ways to raise funds to keep the monastery going. They moved from making fishing lures to roasting peanuts and in 1973 decided to begin a book apostolate based on presentations given by Mother Angelica.

Mother Angelica's involvement in television ministry began in March 1978 when she was interviewed by a Chicago station. Following that interview she began videotaping programs for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). By 1978, Mother Angelica had begun making plans for her own production studio to spread the Word and called it the Eternal Word Television Studio. Mother Angelica's dream was to reach common persons, teach them the various types of spirituality, provide family programming for children and adults, be a vehicle of expression for various Catholic organizations, and provide inexpensive but high quality programming for dioceses that could not afford to make their own programs. On September 18, 1980, she applied for a license from the Federal Communications Commission to activate the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

When EWTN began transmission on August 15, 1981, the network reached sixty thousand homes; nineteen years later, the program could be seen in more than 59 million homes around the world. In 1983, EWTN launched its flagship series "Mother Angelica Live." Cablecast live three nights each week, this program combined a Bible lesson taught by Mother Angelica with a talk show featuring prominent Catholic theologians, clergy, and lay persons, as well as entertainers and sports figures. Topics discussed ranged from the traditions of the Catholic faith to current church issues.

What began as a beam of faith has evolved into an international network transmitting Christian programs with a Catholic point of view. EWTN, marketed as the global Catholic network, reaches Europe, Africa, and the Pacific Rim. In 1996 EWTN expanded with Spanish television and radio services in the USA market. In 1999 EWTN announced La Red Global Catolica, the twenty-four-hour Spanish cable network, and Radio Catolica Mundial, EWTN Spanish radio network, which are available not only within the United States but in Central and South America. Hispanic programming originates from over a dozen countries and reflects the diversity of the Hispanic community.

A state-of-the-art web site ( reflects a diversity of services and select information concerning the Catholic Church. It offers a library of select church documents, recent statements by the pope and church leaders, a gallery of religious art, catalogue for purchasing Catholic publications and religious art, Catholic Headlines News from Catholic World News, Vatican Information Services and Zenit, as well as "Life on the Rock," which is directed toward young people in their search for networking into Catholic youth groups, Catholic colleges, and religious communities. Visitors to the web site can download video and audio programs and clips to their computers.

In 1984, EWTN became the first religious network to receive one of the cable industries' ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) nominations for a series targeted to a specific audience (the family). In the same year, Mother Angelica received the Gabriel Award for Personal Achievement with EWTN from the National Catholic Association of Communicators (Unda-USA).

Bibliography: "The Electronic Church Spreads the Word," U.S. News & World Report (April 23, 1984). "Determination," Cablevision (Jan. 30, 1984). "Satellites that Serve Us," National Geographic (Sept. 1983). "A New Cable-TV Network with a Difference," New York Times (Aug. 15, 1981). sister m. raphael, My Life with Mother Angelica (Our Lady of the Angels Monastery 1982). "The Broadcasting Nun," New Covenant (Nov. 1984). d. o'neil, Mother Angelica: Her Life Story (New York 1986).

[a. a. zukowski]