Sr. Mary Elizabeth on “Mother Angelica Live”

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Mother Angelica, founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), died on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday. Born in 1923, she was a pioneer in religious media programming.

EWTN was the first Catholic satellite television station in the United States. It began broadcasting on August 15, 1981. Today the network has 230 million viewers in 140 countries.

A mainstay of EWTN was Mother’s talk show, “Mother Angelica Live.” Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, our foundress, was a guest on the show in 1987. Here is a partial transcript:

Mother Angelic: How and when did you start?

Sr. Mary Elizabeth: I started in 1974, I don’t know how. I had already begun what we call Joseph House, which is our apostolate, and I was doing that as a layperson with other lay people, but knowing that I was waiting for the first vocation to come. So I think it was nine years after I started Joseph House that a young lady came to be a helper, and I recognized that she had a vocation, so the two of us decided that we would start. And so we went to a bishop and we said to him would he mind if we tried it? And if it didn’t work, well it was a sign from God. He said, well, it was a free country, and if we wanted to try it just try it. And I thought, well, evidently he doesn’t know anymore about it than I do! So from all that ignorance we got started.

Mother Angelic: You made a deal with the Lord. What was it?

Sr. Mary Elizabeth: I told the Lord that I would be willing to do the work if He would do the worrying. I would not worry. So He has done magnificently with His end of the job, I hope I’ve done well with mine.

Mother Angelic: What do you do?

Sr. Mary Elizabeth: We do anything that the poor need. We are free, that’s the beauty of our work. We are absolutely free to do anything that the poor person needs. So we do many things, from job placement to instruction to counseling to paying rents, paying mortgages, turning on gas, turning on electric, feeding people, minding children, cleaning houses. Whatever a person needs at the moment is what we try to do for them.

We work very well with the established agencies and mostly we’re happy to take care of people who fall between the cracks with other agencies. People that they can’t take care of, people who for example either live in the wrong vicinity to get help from an agency or have maybe $10 too much to get Food Stamps — it’s just pathetic — or who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid and so they can’t even go out and get medicine when they need it. They simply cannot supply the necessary things to get what they need, and so we’re very happy to be able to step in there.

We live totally on Divine Providence. Sometimes we spend today what we might get tomorrow, which is very daring, but we often do that. I started this in the sixties and we have lived that way ever since. It’s just wonderful. What comes, goes. And it goes for whatever is needed, whatever God sends, whatever people He sends and the problems He sends.

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Mother Angelic: What can people do to help the poor?

Sr. Mary Elizabeth: One of the things I think they can do is just become very friendly with some poor families, help them to understand what help there is for them, many of them do not know how to use the organizations that are set up to help them. And the other thing is to just be a good listener for them, a person who is empathetic, somebody who will mind their baby for them while they go to the store or somebody who will tell them what to do about a problem with someone.

Most of the poor need friends, they need friends more than they need money, they just need someone who makes them feel like they are somebody and who will be there when they have trouble and listen to them. That is very hard for social workers to do because they are just not able to do that. We don’t consider ourselves social workers, we consider ourselves as carrying out the Gospel. That’s really what we want to do.

Caller: How can I get a strong faith?

Sr. Mary Elizabeth: I don’t know how you get it, I just know I have it. But I’m sure that God will give it to you if you desire it. God gives us everything that we really need — everything — and we don’t have to feel that we have the faith, that’s what we have to remember. We do not have to feel that we have the faith. We simply have to believe that God will take care of us. He does, that’s all I can say. It’s in the will.

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