|This is how I remember Mother Angelica.|
As I have been praying for Mother Angelica's eternal repose, memories of another bold woman Mother Paula Cordero, kept coming to mind. There really are a number of remarkable similarities between the two women:
- Both grew up in situations of poverty, albeit very different in kind: Mother Angelica knew the poverty of the Depression in urban America; Mother Paula was from a tiny hilltop village in rural Italy and ended her formal education at third grade.
- Both were missionaries to cultures vastly different than their own: Mother Angelica went from a Catholic stronghold to the Bible Belt; Mother Paula from rural Italy to New York City (arriving at the height of the Depression).
- Both were foundresses, not as originators of a charism (the way St Francis or Blessed James Alberione were) but as "transplanters" of a religious community to a new terrain. Mother Angelica established a new foundation of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration not once, but twice: first in her native Canton, OH, and then, famously, in Alabama. Mother Paula was in the first group of Pauline women sent by the Founder to establish the community in the United States. (She was only 23 and had not even made final vows yet.)
- Both were visionary and creative women who left a legacy that no one could have anticipated. While I am very intimately acquainted with Mother Paula's legacy (starting with my own vocation!), it is clear that, from an external point of view, Mother Angelica has had a far broader impact. (Only God knows the supernatural impact of any mission, so I must leave that judgment to him.) This has long been a sore point for me. For years, I suspected that God must have raised up Mother Angelica because the Paulines, with their charismatic responsibility for media evangelization, had dropped the ball somewhere along the way. And that could be, even though while Mother Angelica was making her first steps in media, Mother Paula was behind the Pauline efforts to build a radio station here in Boston. (The office I am writing in is just yards from the studio*; the building itself was designed to hold the massive satellite uplink that was never installed.) In the mystery of Divine Providence, God chose, as usual (see 1 Cor 1:27!), the least likely instrument to succeed where the presumedly anointed ones would fail.
- Finally, both of these prophetic women spent their final years in silence as a result of a stroke. I was privileged to be among those who had a regular turn to provide care for Mother Paula for several years. Many times it was hard for Mother Paula to do more than accept the food I put to her lips. Sometimes she simply refused it. But when I would suggest that she "offer it up for the catechisms" or "offer it up for vocations," she was able to find the wherewithall to do whatever was necessary. Likewise, if her gaze was vacant, all I had to do was mention the latest vocational or catechetical initiative and her beautiful blue eyes would open wide, eagerly communicating her desire to participate in these vital aspects of our life and mission. I do not know what it was like for the sisters who cared for Mother Angelica in these many years but I suspect they had experiences like mine.
*While our dreamt-of station never materialized, we have been involved in radio for decades. Our Spanish radio programs are broadcast in over 100 stations worldwide. Listen here.