Mother Angelica may have had an international television audience, but she also left an impression in her own backyard.
“Her impact, you can feel it, it’s here,” Sister Teresa of the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hanceville, Ala., where Mother’s monastery was located, told CNA. She noted “the support from the whole community, even the other churches around” after Mother Angelica’s death on Easter Sunday.
“Everybody loved her. You couldn’t help but love her,” said Joan Florence, from nearby Cullman, Ala. “She meant so much to all of us here in Coleman. She shared her life with us throughout the whole town.”
Florence noted how a bus full of mourners from a Baptist association in Huntsville came to the monastery to pay their respects earlier in the week.
“She had all faiths come here. She gathered all of God’s children to her.”
Mother Angelica’s funeral Mass and burial took place on Friday at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala. An estimated 2000 mourners attended the mass, along with dozens of priests and several bishops concelebrating the Mass.
She was the pride of tiny Hanceville, it seemed. Businesses including the local community college put up prominent signs honoring her. State and local police directed traffic to the shrine.
“Everyone calls her ‘Mother,’” Sister Teresa said of the local community. “Even when you go in restaurants or you go out to eat, you’re in Walmart or wherever you may be, people will always ask are you from the Shrine,” she added. “You know that her presence is very much felt here.”
Neighboring Center Hill Baptist Church, just up the road from the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery where Mother spent the last years of her life, welcomed pilgrims traveling to the shrine and provided water and snacks. According to Sister Teresa, they also provided flower bouquets for Mother Angelica’s funeral.
“She was an amazing woman,” said Richard Jesse, a member of Center Hill church who once lived next to the monastery gate. He added the monastery has been “such a good neighbor, our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
When the nuns bought the land in the mid-1990s — 403 acres once all their acquisitions were made — he admitted the neighbors “didn’t have any idea, really” what would happen next. The area was quiet and remote, rolling hills and a dirt road. Since then the shrine has increased traffic in the area and more businesses have popped up as a result, and the road is now paved.
However, “it’s been a very good experience” since then, he said. “They’ve always been very good to me as a neighbor.”
“We believe we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, and are here to help each other in all areas.”
Jesse related to CNA how the monastery “helped me out a lot of times” including the brothers cutting up downed trees and moving them off the road after tornado came through the area.
When Center Hill church was vandalized a couple of years ago, the monastery raised funds to help repair the damage. The church repaid the favor this past week, opening its doors to pilgrims attending Mother’s funeral and offering them use of its restrooms and complimentary water and snacks. The sign by the road honored Mother’s memory and offered condolences to mourners.
Two pilgrims traveling to Mother’s funeral told CNA how the church, over 3 miles from the monastery, shuttled them to the shrine for the Mass.
“They [the monastery] helped us out and we feel obligated to help them out in a time of need,” member Tim Wallace told CNA. “If your neighbor passed away — the way the Southern culture is, you would cook a meal and carry it to them.”
“And we can’t cook a meal for them, but we can open our doors for the restrooms and the water, and we can offer our parking lot for assistance or whatever. We can do that.”
Mother Angelica endured much pain and many hardships, Jesse noted. As a nurse at nearby Cullman Medical Center, he cared for Mother when she had her last stroke. “She was a very strong woman to survive all that,” he said.