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Raymond Arroyo
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Mother Angelica, the 'Mrs. Fixit' of Catholicism
Mother Angelica, the 'Mrs. Fixit' of Catholicism
Staten Island Advance
By Hazel DeForrest Shea, Staff Writer
Sunday, November 06, 2005


Rita Rizzo was a child in a loving home until she was 5 years old, when her father walked away, her mother, Mae, got a divorce, and felt thereafter that life had dealt her a dirty deal. Mae's disappointment and depression was visited on her daughter until the day Rita left home to enter the convent.

Rita did not become a nun to escape her clinging mother, however. Years before, she had fallen in love with Jesus and sensed she had a vocation. When racked with stomach pain and back spasms, she consulted a holy woman named Rhoda Wise and eventually was cured. This only brought her closer to Christ.

Rita became Sister Angelica. She was the "Mrs. Fixit" of the convent, later graduating to Master Builder, supported by her helpers from the neighborhood, volunteers known as the "Tonys" from their Italian background.

This holy woman's life and accomplishments are well-delineated in Raymond Arroyo's new book, "Mother Angelica," but this is not a whitewash. Here is no plaster saint. Considering her limitations, however, and her monumental achievements, one may wonder if she might sometimes have had the ear of God.

Although a contemplative, Sister's projects spilled out into the world and drew her into contact with the public. She ventured into teaching Bible classes, speaking engagements, writing pamphlets and books. When her publisher backed down, she even enlisted the nuns to publish her books themselves.

When those surrounding her pointed out that there was no money for her latest project, Sister would say, referring to Jesus, "Money is His problem. Working for His Kingdom is mine." Amazingly, she was right. She built a convent, a TV network, a beautiful church, and saw the success of her enterprises multiply, all built on faith and fortuitous donations from foundations and ordinary people who wanted to be of help.

Sister, now Mother, Angelica said that there was nothing more ridiculous than a contemplative nun in television, but added that God used the ridiculous to perform the miraculous. She realized the need for a religious TV network -- The Eternal Word Television Network, channel 83 on Staten Island's Time Warner Cable -- when she said to a crowd of 4,000, "For too long the TV tube has been in the hands of the enemy."

While she was accomplishing all this, Mother was becoming more and more disabled. It seemed the worse things got, the more she shone. Her programs, where she would chat with the audience and callers, became immensely popular. Her witty, "take-no-prisoners," Dear Abby style wowed her followers.

Once, Mother lectured her audience on dressing modestly, not sparing senior citizens: "Nobody tells you because they're afraid to hurt your feelings. But some of you old gals -- believe me -- cover it up! Whatever was there is gone."

Mother wanted us to consider something else, though. During one of her broadcasts, she said, " Many of you listening tonight, you listen because I am earthy and rather saucy. You're right ... but I don't want you to listen to me for that. I want you to listen to this network because you want to get closer to the Lord." The contemplative nun was still there, behind all the worldly achievements.