Sister Mary Regina of the Holy Angels, the first religious sister to join Mother Angelica’s monastery in Irondale, Alabama, died July 22 at age 78 after a battle with cancer.
Born Jo Ann Magro, Sister Regina first met Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN, while the former was a student at John Carroll High School in Birmingham almost 60 years ago, according to a biography of her provided to CNA by Father Joseph Wolfe, MFVA, the EWTN chaplain.
What drew Sister Mary Regina to Mother Angelica’s Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration order?
The “first daughter” of Mother Angelica was inspired to enter the monastery to join the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration by the autobiography of French nun St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “Story of a Soul.”
Sister Regina, who was known for her mezzo-soprano voice in the choir and her “Italian wit,” made her first profession of vows on Oct. 15, 1967, according to the biography. She cared for Mother Angelica every day following Mother’s debilitating stroke in 2001.
Persevering through a devastating diagnosis
“Following [Sister Regina’s] diagnoses of pancreatic cancer in the Fall of 2022, this ‘little mustard seed’ of Our Lord persevered through many sufferings and battled many trials with faith,” the biography said.
She passed away surrounded by her sisters and “peacefully returned to the Lord Our Savior,” it said.
Father Wolfe spoke with CNA about Sister Regina, whom he had known since 1985.
A clear interior call to religious life
“As Mother and her sisters were building the monastery in Irondale, a friend brought her there [at age 16] where she met Mother for the first time. At that moment she heard the Lord say, ‘Come,’” Wolfe wrote in an email interview.
Wolfe said that Sister Regina attended the dedication when Our Lady of the Angels Monastery was finished on May 20, 1962, and entered shortly after graduating high school, on Aug. 15, 1964.
Wolfe also said that Sister Regina’s cousin, Steve Magro, remembers her saying “from her earliest years” that she had a religious vocation.
A very special grace
“Sister Regina told five of us friars when we visited her a few weeks before her death that she had received a very special grace as a little girl at her first holy Communion at St. Mark’s Catholic Church — showing her what her life’s mission would be,” he said.
“She told us that the Lord told her that she would share in a great mission of the Church and that he would give her graces to be part of a mission for the whole world,” he said.
Influence of St. Therese of Lisieux
Wolfe said that Sister Regina’s decision to join the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a contemplative order, was inspired by Story of a Soul.
“She, in fact, often made a novena to St. Thérèse and would ask for a rose, which she often received,” he said.
Wolfe is referring to a popular novena to the saint that at the end of the nine days of recitation many have attested to roses appearing.
Behind the Scenes: The bold step to obtaining their first broadcasting license
Sister Regina was also present the day Mother Angelica and the sisters decided to obtain a broadcasting license without any prior television experience.
“Mother said to the nuns gathered in the refectory: ‘Once we have a license and we start, there will be no turning back. Are you willing to do this?’ All 12 of them said: ‘Yes.’ Sister Regina said that the Lord took their ‘yeses’ and Mother’s and did something wonderful,” Wolfe said.
Another special grace: WOW!
Wolfe said in his homily at Sister Regina’s funeral Mass on Thursday, July 28, that “Sister Regina was given a special grace to see a flame that issued forth from that first satellite dish — which remains EWTN’s primary satellite dish — which was confirmed in a photograph the day of its installation.”
“When I asked her about it, she said that she saw that that flame would envelop the whole world and benefit many souls — that this network would glorify Jesus, the Eternal Word,” he said in the homily.
Today, EWTN’s several networks reach more than 408 million homes.
In addition to sharing moments of success in broadcasting, Sister Regina and Mother Angelica shared many personal moments.
On Aug. 15, 2014, Sister Regina celebrated her 50th anniversary of entering religious life, while Mother Angelica celebrated her 70th anniversary.
“Sister Regina was delighted to share the day with Mother Angelica,” he said.
Her last advice: “You can do better”
When Wolfe and his fellow friars visited Sister Regina before her passing, he asked her if she had any advice for them.
“She said that Mother said that to always motivate us to holiness. Which reminds me of St. Francis’ words to the friars at his death, ‘Brothers, let us begin today, for until now we have done very little,’” he added.
Always friendly, cheerful and focused on being with Jesus forever
During her battle with pancreatic cancer, Wolfe said that Sister Regina was always cheerful and friendly, even through the suffering.
“She looked forward to being with Jesus forever,” he said.
Reflecting on a particular memory of Sister Regina, Wolfe said that she loved to sing and had a “beautiful mezzo-soprano voice.”
“Father Mark [Mary] mentioned that he especially remembers her singing a solo of the Franciscan hymn ‘O Most High and Glorious God.’ She also would sing solos at Christmas and Easter, as did Mother Angelica, something we all looked forward to,” he added.
Wolfe also said that Sister Regina loved animals, “especially dogs — having a true Franciscan heart!”
Sister Regina’s obituary concluded with the prayer “Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.”
- The Story of a Soul, the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux (“The Little Flower”) , by St. Therese of Lisieux
- Singing & Interview with some of the nuns of Mother Angelica’s order: