EWTN (The Eternal Word Television Network) is a television and radio operation that broadcasts Catholic religious programming worldwide, via satellite television and radio, broadcast television and radio, shortwave and the internet from studios at 5817 Old Leeds Road in Irondale.
EWTN was incorporated in 1981 with a broadcast radius of 60,000 homes for its four hours of daily programming. It now broadcasts 24 hour programming in English and Spanish to 125 million homes in 147 countries. EWTN offers a wide variety of Catholic themed programming, including daily Mass, talk shows such as EWTN Live and Sunday Evening Live, Daily Rosary, Benediction, teaching programs, entertainment/variety shows, children's programming, live coverage of world Catholic events such as Bishops' conferences and Papal travels, Music shows, Youth programming, and more.
The network, which does not carry advertising, has an annual budget of around $30 million which is entirely recouped through charitable donations.
In the beginning
Mother Angelica founded Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale in 1962. That same year she began giving "parlor talks" at the monastery and recording lessons on spiritual living onto 45-rpm records for sale to the public. She began a Sunday-morning tape-delayed radio broadcast called "Journey Into Scripture" and began publishing devotional books and pamphlets distributed through the monastery. Her recordings made the transition to audiocassette, and then video. A series of Mother Angelica's talks were taped at WBMG-TV's studios for sale on videocassette.
She pulled her tapings from WBMG after the station aired a CBS network program that she considered to contradict Christian teaching. After visiting the Baptist-affiliated WCFC-TV Chicago to appear on the "Among Friends" show in 1978 she became determined to build her own studio. Attorney Bill Steltemeier made a large donation which helped make possible the outfitting of a dedicated broadcast studio on monastery property.
Development of EWTN
After Mother was able to purchase satellite space, EWTN signed on in August of 1981 with 4 hours a day of programming, including talk shows, Mother Angelica Live (aired two nights a week), Sunday Mass once a week, and re-runs of older Catholic programs such as "Life Is Worth Living" with Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. The remainer of the time was filled with shows produced by Catholic dioceses across the country. Other programs occupying the schedule included the Christian drama shows produced by the Lutheran Church This is Life and Patterns for Living, some Protestant teaching programs that were in agreement with Catholic principles, and children's shows such as Joy Junction and The Sunshine Factory. About a third of the time consisted of secular content, like re-runs of The Bill Cosby Show, public domain movies, and cooking and western-themed shows.
From 1986 to 1988, secular content was gradually dropped, and, in 1987, satellite distribution was expanded to a more desirable channel and the channel went 24 hours a day. At this point, the channel began running the Rosary daily and added a number of teaching shows. Program production gradually increased at the station.
The Mass which aired weekly became televised daily in 1991 and their production approached nearly half the day. Programs deemed to be "too progressive" were rejected, and most shows from non-Catholic sources were dropped. A more traditional image was gradually adopted.
In 1992, EWTN established the largest privately owned shortwave radio station in the Birmingham area. The station broadcasts Catholic programming 24 hours a day in English and Spanish. In 1996, EWTN launched a free satellite-delivered AM/FM radio network to stations worldwide, also in English and Spanish.
In 2004, EWTN announced an agreement with Sirius Satellite Radio to carry EWTN programming.
The EWTN News department produces a daily news service for the television and radio network, featuring news sources including Vatican Radio. They also produce a show combining conservative politics with Catholic teaching called "The World Over".
In early 2010, EWTN created a joint news service with the Denver, Colorado-based Catholic News Agency, known as EWTN News. A Spanish-language EWTN Noticias, launched in January 2011. On February 1, 2011, EWTN acquired the National Catholic Register newspaper, also based in Denver, from the Legion of Christ.
History of programming
In its early history, EWTN ran a wide variety of Catholic produced programming from various Roman Catholic sources. This ranged from Charismatic Movement programming such as Father Michael Manning to shows focusing on social reform and justice, like Christopher Closeup, to teaching shows hosted by various priests and bishops some of which were on the progressive side. When they had to program 24/7 and lacked the resources to produce their own shows they took shows they would today not even consider. The Mass they ran was completely in English as well.
In the early 1990s, EWTN began producing more of their own shows. They also began running the Mass daily. Their attitude also began to change in response to liberal attitudes within the Church. They began preaching against relativism as well as those who do not follow Church teachings. They also began to demonstrate disdain for the way Mass was being celebrated in various parishes. They argued that many churches supposedly no longer celebrated the Mass in a reverent manner. As a result in 1992 they began mixing Latin into their own Masses. They still celebrated the Novus Ordo Mass but a few common prayers would be said in Latin. They also cut the hymns to just the opening and closing songs. They also stopped using contemporary praise and worship music in which they used guitars, drums and piano and replaced the music with organ and violin. Some hymns are still Protestant but approved by Rome. In between they used Gregorian chant.
On Christmas Eve of 1993 Mother Angelica and her order of nuns switched their clothing to the pre-Vatican II traditional habit.
EWTN has many programs discussing Protestant beliefs from their perspective, such as The Journey Home in which converts to Catholicism, mostly from other Christian denominations, state their reasons for converting. They go about discussing with the guest their background, their journey (indicating their former beliefs in order) and their reasons for changing their beliefs. The guest explains how he/she saw Catholicism as the source of Christian truth and religious belief, and also supply their views on their previous faith. Intellectual reasoning and discussions make up the substance of the program. Guests chosen usually are from an intellectual (PhD's)/scholarly background (often pastorial/faith related) and occasionally a typical lay-person.
Shows such as Sunday Night Live with Fr. Benedict Groeschel also host religious discussions and are usually appreciated by all faiths (i.e Catholicism and Christian denominations, and even other religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism as claimed several times on the show).
In 2006, EWTN celebrated their 25th anniversary with a year-long "road show" which culminated with a gathering and large-scale Mass for more than 5,000 attendees at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex on August 12-13. The event was broadcast globally Mother Angelica was unable to attend due to poor health.
Some of the programs on EWTN:
- "Mother Angelica Live"
- Daily Mass
- "Life on the Rock" with Father Francis Mary
- "My Little Angels"
- "Adventures in Odyssey"
- "EWTN Live" with Father Mitch Pacwa
- "The Journey Home" with Marcus Grodi
- "The World Over" with Raymond Arroyo
- "Web Of Faith" with Father John Trigilio and Father Robert Levis
- "G. K. Chesterton: an Apostle of Common Sense" with Dale Aquest
- "Household of Faith: Now We're Catholic" with Christie Franklin & Barbara Moss
- "The Abundant Life:Catholic Answers"
- The Holy Rosary with Mother Angelica & the nuns
- Benediction from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery
- "Does The Church Still Teach This?" with Father Shannon Collins
- "Sunday Night Live" with Father Benedict Groeschel
- "Threshold of Hope with Father Mitch Pacwa
- "Defending Life" with Father Frank Pavone and Janet Morana
The network also airs coverage of Church events worldwide, documentaries, music specials, the rosary, and other devotional segments.
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- Arroyo, Raymond. (2005) Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0385510926
- Lopez, Kathryn Jean (July-August 2001) "Mother Angelica's Empire of the Airwaves." Crisis. No. 19. pp. 12-17.
- Neuhaus, Richard John (May 1990) "The Case of the Uppity Nun." First Things. No. 83. pp. 63-79.
- Garrison, Greg (January 19, 2011) "Alabama-based EWTN acquires National Catholic Register newspaper." Birmingham News