May 24, 2014

Homecoming for Cathedral alumnus at the helm of world’s largest Catholic network



Story and photo by Carolee McGrath

SPRINGFIELD – Hometown boy who made good, Michael Warsaw came back to this city last week, inspiring teens and adults alike with the words of Mother Angelica.

“Whatever way it is you’re being called by God in your own life, in your own journey, as you finish these years at Cathedral, always be open to that,” Warsaw told Cathedral High School students in Wilbraham last week.

“Always be open to the spirit, always be open to that call by God to do something ridiculous,” he said to the students who were gathered for an assembly at the Wilbraham school

“I promise you, through your willingness to do the ridiculous, God will accomplish the miraculous.”

Warsaw, who graduated from Cathedral in 1982, is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), based in Irondale, Alabama.

He flew to western Massachusetts last week to attend Cathedral High School’s St. Joseph Medal award dinner at the Cedar’s in Springfield where he was one of eight recipients of the St. Joseph Medal (see related story here on iobserve). He also spoke at the Western Massachusetts Chapter of Legatus in Springfield.

“I think it’s part of God’s sense of humor that the guy who grew up in Pine Point (neighborhood in Springfield) would end up in Irondale, Alabama,” Warsaw told iobserve. “I certainly never expected that’s where I’d end up or that’s what God had in store for me, but it’s a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful experience.”

Warsaw attended the former Our Lady of the Sacred Heart grammar school in Springfield. At Cathedral, he was senate president for the school’s highly acclaimed student congress. Warsaw then went on to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he studied religion and religious studies. He also did graduate work in liturgical studies.

Warsaw joined EWTN in 1991. In his current role, he is also the publisher of the National Catholic Register newspaper, which EWTN acquired in 2011.

“There’s no doubt that the network and its programming has given hope to people who had no hope,” Warsaw explained. “Often we hear from people in very desperate points in their life, even people contemplating suicide for example, who are channel-surfing and turn on the network and find a message of hope and (that) gives them renewed spirit.”

During his visit to western Massachusetts, he toured the production facilities of the Diocese of Springfield’s Catholic Communications ministry, where “Real to Reel” and the “Chalice of Salvation” are produced.

He told iobserve this ministry showed him at an early age the power of the media to help spread the Good News.

“We hear from people of all ages and backgrounds and demographics who find in the network that tremendous sense of hope and tremendous sense of belonging, being a part of a family, being part of the church,” Warsaw said.

Mother Angelica, a Poor Clare nun, started EWTN in Irondale, Ala., in 1981, building a studio on the grounds of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, which she founded.

EWTN has become the world’s largest religious media organization. It was launched during the time when Music Television (MTV) and Cable News Network (CNN) came into being. Warsaw said Mother Angelica had only a few hundred dollars in the bank when she started out.

“This is not a recipe for success, a business school plan,” Warsaw said, “a bunch of nuns in a monastery garage, with $200 dollars in the bank, with sheep and goats…it is not a recipe for (the) success (of) a media empire,” Warsaw told Cathedral students on his visit. “But it was because it was God’s network.”

EWTN has children’s animation, teaching series and pro-life shows. They also cover live church events. The network recently received a Gabriel Award for Religious Television Station of the Year. The network’s newest nightly news program, “EWTN News Nightly,” won a Gabriel for “Single News Story Series National Release.”

“One of the areas that we’re really focusing on is the news genre,” Warsaw said. “We recently launched ‘EWTN News Nightly,’ which is a five night a week network style newscast, the first global Catholic news program of its kind.

“We’ve expanded news in many of our other platforms, in radio, online and in print, because in this current moment, the church’s voice is either being shut out of secular news or is being misrepresented,” said Warsaw. “I think it’s more important at this time that the network have a solidly Catholic news program and solidly Catholic news resources where people can come to a Catholic outlet to understand what the church is saying.”

Warsaw and his wife, Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, have two children, Michael Jr., 18, and Angelica Elizabeth, 13. He believes the youth offer incredible hope for the church.

“I think our children are remarkable, and what I see in young people, particularly so many of our young Catholics, is a true commitment to being pro-life, a really strong sense of the importance of being Catholic, the importance of embracing the church and her teachings.”

Mother Angelica, who just turned 91, suffered a stroke in 2001, which impaired her speech. Warsaw said he continues to be inspired by her faith and joy. He hopes, that in years to come, the network will continue to bring Christ’s triumphant message to every corner of the world.

“We shouldn’t apologize for being Catholic,” Warsaw said. “We should be proud of being Catholic. Those things in life, whatever they are, that are worth doing, are difficult and we should embrace that,” Warsaw said. “I hope that’s part of the message EWTN gives people, is to embrace that and to embrace the wonderful gift that is our Catholic faith.”