Mother Mary Angelica, founder of the Eternal Word Television Network, the first Roman Catholic satellite cable network, will be awarded the Patronal Medal of Catholic University and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The medal honors distinguished service in theology, devotion to Mary, and an appreciation of Mary's place in the life of the church. It will be presented at the shrine tomorrow, the Sunday closest to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Among Catholics, patrons and saints are acknowledged as protectors and benefactors. The university's founders considered Mary, the mother of Jesus, their protector.

University President William J. Byron said that through the Eternal Word Network, Mother Angelica reaches millions of people with televised discussions, sermons and concerts that encourage devotion to Mary. She is credited with encouraging widespread prayer and reverence to "Our Lady," Byron added.

Mother Angelica is the mother superior of the Our Lady of the Angels nuns and is a native of Canton, Ohio. She began her career as a television journalist by producing a religious talk show for the Christian Broadcasting Network in Birmingham. She left CBN after the station she worked for broadcast a movie she believed was blasphemous.

On faith that God would provide and with funding from friends, according to Angelica, she built her own studio behind the convent where she was living in Birmingham. Her first broadcast in 1981 was viewed by as many as 3,000 households.

Mother Angelica said she feels greatly honored by the Patronal Medal. She said she never feels that she does enough for Mary. "It is easy to talk about Mary, because I have a great love for her," she said. "Mary is a contemporary woman, a woman of today, and is the best of everything a woman can be."

The Eternal Word Network broadcasts to 20 million households. Mother Angelica has a live show twice a week and addresses a variety of issues from abortion to theology. The network survives primarily on individual donations and a few foundation grants.

A member of the Poor Clare Perpetual Adoration order, Mother Angelica entered the religious life in Cleveland in 1944.

She founded Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Birmingham; the Community of the Eternal Word, a religious institute of brothers and priests; and the Lay Missionaries of the Eternal Word.

She is the author of 53 books on spiritual life.