Mother Angelica’s Wake at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament
By Velma Nystrom, A.J.J.
As we left Mobile at 6:30 a.m. after morning Mass at St Mary’s, I was commenting to the Sisters that we would never be able to accomplish all we intended to do that day. The plan was to drive over 5 hours to Hanceville, stop for breakfast, pay our final respects to Mother Angelica braving the crowds, have some lunch, go to EWTN another 45 minutes away in Irondale to visit the TV station, maybe stop at my daughter’s house to see grandbaby Elliot, who has been the focus of the Sisters’ prayers of late, then head home, all in one day. Apparently I didn’t count on Sister Ellen Anne’s driving skills (enough said!!), or the blessings we would receive all day long on our trip!
The rain poured out of the sky in torrents as we traveled the two-lane country road toward Hanceville and Mother Angelica. A strong Sheriff’s presence indicated the expectation of crowds but the rain had dampened that considerably, much to our advantage! We found parking easily, grabbed our big umbrellas, and waded toward the Shrine. At the sight of the Little Sisters, a group from Pensacola ran to say hello and greet them. It was a photo op!! We were greeted warmly by many people. We went directly to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament to have an opportunity to pass through the Holy Doors and view our dear Mother Angelica who has meant so much to all of us through her ministry at EWTN.
Once inside, we joined the cloistered Poor Clare Sisters, hidden behind the altar, in saying the last few decades of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. There was a long double line of well-wishers all the way to the door of the chapel and many were inside, kneeling in prayer before the exposed body of Mother Angelica. Her unlined face looked much younger than her 92 years and was peaceful in repose, but her hands showed the wear of much work and prayer. We awaited our turn to pay respects and were rewarded with the honor of laying our chosen objects on Mother’s folded hands. This was done by an attendant. Each of us was sure we were in the presence of the body of a soon-to-be-recognized saint, and we will treasure our relics of this great lady whom we have seen and heard with our own eyes and ears!
We stayed to pray in the chapel and witness the beautiful devotion of the many people from all over the country who gathered to offer their love and prayers for Mother’s soul, and to honor her life and work. We all commented on the great spirit of silence even though many people were there in the Chapel.
The Gift shop was our next destination but we got sidetracked by a surprise meeting with Sister Ellen Anne’s friend, Sandy, also a personal friend of Mother Angelica’s. She invited the lot of us to lunch. We hastened to the gift shop, where once again we met with wonderful people who greeted the Little Sisters warmly, even buying Sister Raymond a movie for the Sisters, along with Maria’s offering of a great teaching CD for the Sisters’ listening pleasure! Love and gifts abounded! Many pictures were taken!
Dear Sister Carolyn, ever vigilant of our time, gently guided the straying wanderers out of the gift shop and forward to our next stop: lunch and conversation with Sandy and Linda at the local barbecue place. Sandy shared stories of her life with Mother and Mother’s last days, along with other stories of their friendship. I know others will share those stories! We were still on schedule and it looked like a trip to EWTN was possible.
We arrived by 3:35 p.m. and, of course, landed ourselves in the gift shop! It was becoming almost a joke how well things were going and none of us were surprised when we met Dave, an EWTN employee who offered to show us around the studios, and asked for our prayers (which we honored with several decades of the Rosary on our drive home). We toured the stages and sets used for all the EWTN productions and were even invited to stay and see the show filmed, but our schedule did not allow it. Our surprise came when we went into the back of the studio and ran first into Father John Trigillio, an EWTN personality and well-known Catholic speaker, and then Raymond Arroyo, one of Mother Angelica’s biographers and friends, and the host of “The World Over,” on the EWTN network. He was just in from New York to record the show and to attend the funeral, and only minutes away from going on the air. There are pictures! And he shared some his Mother Angelica stories. Our cup really was up to overflowing, for sure!!
Happy and exhausted, we made the final stop a few blocks away to quickly kiss my grandbaby, Elliot and show the Little Sisters the fruit of all their prayers for him. We were home by 9 p.m. much to Mother Mary Sylvia’s surprise! And I was happily proven very wrong in my first assessment of our chances of accomplishing everything. The Holy Spirit was our constant companion!