BY BROOKSI HUDSON
CHARLESTON — In an effort to bring the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) to a broader area in the Lowcountry, members of the Lowcountry board of Mediatrix Catholic radio and local supporters met at the Mills House Nov. 2.
Raymond Arroyo, news director and lead anchor at EWTNews and host of the international newsmagazine, “The World Over Live,” spoke about his New York Times best-selling biography of EWTN founder Mother Angelica.
“I did a profile on her in 1995 for an article,” he said. “She was far more fascinating and intriguing than I could have imagined. This cloistered nun was CEO of one of the largest media empires on the planet.”
In 1999 he met with her weekly.
“I really got to know her well and got her to tell me things that she may not have felt comfortable telling someone she didn’t know as well,” he said.
Arroyo, a former Associated Press journalist, asked Mother Angelica if he could write her story. Born Rita Rizzo, she was abandoned by her father at age five and spent years caring for her suicidal mother. As a young woman, she developed a severe stomach malady and made a dramatic recovery based solely on the prayers of a mystic. She discovered the power of prayer and vowed her life to God and the church.
“She is the most outspoken cloistered nun in the world,” Arroyo said. “She barely graduated from high school. Her journey is truly amazing. The beauty of the story is that a girl who was rejected by everyone almost from the beginning is the person God used to found EWTN.”
Mother Angelica’s media vision has enabled small media organizations such as Mediatrix to broadcast EWTN programming free of charge for any station that wishes to use it.
“Mother wanted people to buy up AM/FM stations, so in 1996 she first made the offer for free programming,” Arroyo said. “Her support of these grass roots efforts has birthed nearly 100 new radio stations, and the possible penetration of Catholic programming is enormous.”
South Carolina has two Mediatrix stations, in St. George and Greer. The St. George station operates on 5,000 watts of power. That signal is too weak for many listeners in the area to receive.
“Our goal is to raise money to increase our strength to 10,000 watts, bringing the signal to 125,000 more people than we currently are,” said Gary Towery, president of Mediatrix. “We want to maximize the number of listeners to Catholic radio.”
EWTN’s evangelization potential is great, considering that 40 percent of all listeners are non-Catholic. The Greer affiliate, 1300 AM, has a potential audience of 500,000 while a potential 30,000 Catholic families in Hilton Head are able to pick up the St. George broadcast.
“We need to re-evangelize Catholics and evangelize non-Catholics,” Towery said. “Evangelization is valuable for people with misconceptions about the Catholic faith. I have heard many cradle Catholics say that every time they listen to EWTN they learn something new.”
Mother Angelica’s vision has been instrumental in the lives of millions, according to Arroyo.
“Thirty percent of our donor base is Protestant,” he said. “Her vision has provided great crossover appeal for practical spirituality. She has been through the blades. She went around the block and was kicked a few times. I wrote this book for anyone who has ever been rejected or abused. She is proof that with God and tenacity anything is possible.”