On May 8, 1962, Mother Angelica, Sister Raphael, Sister Joseph, Sister Michael and Sister Assumpta, the founding Sisters of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, left Sancta Clara Monastery in Canton OH for the new foundation in Alabama.
Mother Angelica’s inspiration to build a monastery in the South took shape when Archbishop Toolen of Mobile extended his invitation, “ya’ll come!” The Sisters collaborated on an unusual fundraising project, “St. Peter’s Fishing Lures,” before the move to Alabama. After the Nuns had made their new home in Irondale and funds were still desperately needed, the creation of the “Lil ‘Ol Peanut Co.” helped to keep the monastery running.
On May 20, 1962, Our Lady of the Angels Monastery was dedicated by Archbishop Toolen. Mother Angelica and the founding Sisters took up residence in the monastery, inaugurating our life of prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament here in the South. Mother Angelica’s mother, Mae Francis, entered as an extern postulant on the same day. A few months later, Sister Veronica, formerly the abbess of Sancta Clara Monastery transferred to the fledgling community. Mother and the Nuns were received by the people of Birmingham with great love and tremendous support. Visitors began to come to OLAM, evidently drawn to the quiet Presence in the chapel.
In 1972, almost a decade after the founding of the monastery, Mother Angelica’s charisma and gift of teaching unfolded even more when she began to write “Mini Books.” The first of many books was Journey into Prayer. The Sisters printed, packaged and shipped these inspired works by the thousands.
After many leaps of faith, on August 15, 1981, Mother Angelica launched Eternal Word Television Network at 6:00 PM. It was a day of great rejoicing for all the community. It was hardly foreseeable that this new missionary endeavor that had begun in the OLAM garage with only $200.00, would become the great media apostolate that it is today. The Nuns supported the Network from the beginning, taking calls at the telethons, giving tours to visitors, opening mail, printing programs, and most of all praying for the work God had surprisingly entrusted to these cloistered nuns!
A rather visible change in the Sister’s life occurred in August 1993. Mother Angelica made a decisive public stand for orthodoxy at the Denver WYD, and announced that the Sisters at OLAM would return to wearing the full traditional habit.
As EWTN continued to expand right at the doors of the monastery, Mother moved OLAM to rural Hanceville, a quiet area more conducive to contemplative prayer. Aided by the incredible generosity of five families, Mother built the Shrine’s Temple in honor of the Divino Niño and the monastery as the new home of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. On December 19, 1999, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville was consecrated. Fittingly, the Shrine is a place of worship for people of all faiths, offering opportunities for visitors and pilgrims to find peace and rest in the Presence of Our Lord.
On Christmas Eve 2001, Mother Angelica suffered a severe stroke. Although she never fully regained the ability of speech, Mother made an amazing recovery and has kept her sense of humor, suffering heroically these many years.
Beginning in 2002, OLAM sent Sisters to help our monasteries in Portsmouth, Ohio as well as to aid in reopening our cradle monastery in Troy, France. Over the past seven years, the community has also made new foundations in Tonopah, Arizona and San Antonio, Texas.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s life and the same can be said of the life and vocation of the PCPAs. The Mass is the heart of each day from which flows our charism of reparative and unremitting thanksgiving, offered to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Privileged with solemn exposition of Our Lord in the monstrance, the Nuns keep a continuous vigil of adoration – twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the year – interceding for all who ask for prayer, for EWTN, and the needs of the world. Our contemplative vocation is a gift of God’s love for the Church, the world, and us! Throughout these five decades, every day, at the beginning of each adoration hour, the Sisters have chanted the Magnificat. Now at the 50th Anniversary of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, Mary’s words ring clear and true: “the Almighty has done great things for [us] and Holy is His Name!” Deo Gratias per Jesum in Sanctissimum Sacramentum!