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Published: Saturday, 5/15/2004

EWTN host will speak in Maumee

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

The Rev. Mitch Pacwa never planned to become a television star. "This is not a career track I was on," said Father Pacwa, host of EWTN Live and two other programs on the global Catholic TV and radio network.

"This is not a career track I was on," said Father Pacwa, host of EWTN Live and two other programs on the global Catholic TV and radio network.

The Jesuit priest and theologian, who will give a free lecture Thursday night in Maumee, earned a doctorate in Old Testament from Vanderbilt University and is fluent in 12 languages including Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew.

He has taught at the high school, university, and seminary levels, has led 44 pilgrimages to the Holy Land, written four books, and in 2000 established a Catholic media ministry called Ignatius Productions.

But while he was a student at Vanderbilt, the priest tuned in a radio program and heard a diatribe of Catholic bashing.

"I went to the director of the station and complained, and she said, 'I can have you on our live radio show.'

"I had a good time. They enjoyed me," Father Pacwa said. "It wasn't mean, but it was definite, that's for sure."

The personable priest with encyclopedic knowledge of Catholicism, Father Pacwa soon became a popular presence in the media for defending and explaining his faith.

"Eventually, a group of Catholics raised the money for me to have my own show on a Protestant radio station, and I've been doing that ever since," Father Pacwa said.

The 54-year-old Jesuit priest has been a host on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) since 1984, three years after the network was founded by Mother Angelica, a Poor Clare nun from Canton, Ohio, in her garage.

The network, based in Birmingham, Ala., is now broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to more than 85 million homes in 110 countries. It can be seen locally on Channels 79 on Buckeye CableSystem.

"I started in February, 1984, on a live show with Mother Angelica," Father Pacwa said. "She and I hit it off immediately."

He hosted hundreds of programs exploring numerous aspects of Catholicism, then left the network for a while until receiving call from its founder in 2001.

"Just before Mother Angelica had her last stroke, a very serious brain hemmorhage [in December, 2001], she asked me to come and help her out," Father Pacwa said.

He resumed working as co-host of Mother Angelica Live, then became its sole host after Mother Angelica's illness. The program was subsequently renamed EWTN Live. Mother Angelica's stroke caused partial

paralysis and affected her speech, and the nun, who turned 81 last month, is living a cloistered life in a Birmingham monastery.

In addition to the live program, which airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Father Pacwa is currently hosting two series of teaching programs, The Holy Rosary in the Holy Land, broadcast at 11:30 a.m. daily, and Threshold of Hope, a study of Pope John Paul II's encyclicals.

"I'm teaching from the Pope's letters, line by line, every Tuesday night for an hour. I'm now on my fifth encyclical," he said.

Father Pacwa's fourth book, Some Heard Thunder, Some Heard God, is scheduled to be published later this year.

The book takes a sociological, historic, and especially theological look at the current crisis in the Catholic Church, studying it in the light of Pope John Paul's teachings on original sin humankind inherited from Adam and Eve, and how God's grace provides a way of redemption.

"Of course we are fallen creatures. We believe in original sin, it's part of our sin nature. But the salvation by Christ restores us to dignity," Father Pacwa said.

"Our role as Catholics today is to live out and teach this role of creation and redemption and to couteract the modern situation."

Father Mitch Pacwa will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at Drouillard Catholic Books and Gifts, 2650 South Detroit Ave., Maumee. The talk is free but reservations are required by calling 419-89-1166.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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