|[show]Ordination history of Fulton J. Sheen
Venerable Fulton John Sheen (born Peter John Sheen, May 8, 1895 – December 9, 1979) was an American bishop (later archbishop) of theRoman Catholic Church known for his preaching and especially his work on television and radio. His cause for canonization as a saint was officially opened in 2002. In June 2012, Pope Benedict XVI officially recognized a decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints stating that he lived a life of “heroic virtues” – a major step towards beatification – so he is now referred to as “Venerable“.
Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria in 1919, Sheen quickly became a renowned theologian, earning the Cardinal Mercier Prize for International Philosophy in 1923. He went on to teach theology and philosophy at The Catholic University of America as well as acting as aparish priest before being appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1951. He held this position until 1966 when he was made the Bishop of Rochester from October 21, 1966 to October 6, 1969, when he resigned and was made the Archbishop of the Titular Seeof Newport, Wales.
For 20 years as Father, later Monsignor, Sheen hosted the night-time radio program The Catholic Hour (1930–1950) before moving to television and presenting Life Is Worth Living (1951–1957). Sheen’s final presenting role was on the syndicated The Fulton Sheen Program (1961–1968) with a format very similar to that of the earlier Life is Worth Living show. For this work, Sheen twice won an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Television Personality, the only personality appearing on the DuMont Network ever to win a major Emmy award. Starting in 2009, his shows were being re-broadcast on the EWTN and the Trinity Broadcasting Network‘s Church Channel cable networks. Due to his contribution to televised preaching Sheen is often referred to as one of the first televangelists.
Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois, the oldest of four sons of Newton and Delia Sheen. Though he was known as Fulton, his mother’s maiden name, he was baptized as Peter John Sheen. As an infant, Sheen contracted tuberculosis. After the family moved to nearbyPeoria, Illinois, Sheen’s first role in the Church was as an altar boy at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
After earning high school valedictorian honors at Spalding Institute in Peoria in 1913, Sheen was educated at St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, Illinois, attended Saint Paul Seminary in Minnesota before his ordination on September 20, 1919, then followed that with further studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.. His youthful appearance was still evident on one occasion when a local priest asked Sheen to assist as altar boy during the celebration of the Mass.
Sheen earned a doctorate in philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1923. While there, he became the first American ever to win the Cardinal Mercier award for the best philosophical treatise. In 1924 Sheen pursued further studies in Rome earning a Sacred Theology Doctorate at the Pontificium Collegium Internationale Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas,Angelicum.
Sheen was for a year assistant to the pastor at St. Patrick’s Church, Soho Square in London while teaching theology at St. Edmund’s College, Ware, where he met Ronald Knox. Although Oxford and Columbia wanted him to teach philosophy, in 1926 Bishop Edmund Dunne of theRoman Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Illinois asked Sheen to take over St. Patrick’s Parish. After nine months, Dunne returned him to Catholic University, where he taught philosophy until 1950.
In 1929, Sheen gave a speech at the National Catholic Educational Association. He encouraged teachers to “educate for a Catholic Renaissance” in the United States. Sheen was hoping that Catholics would become more influential in their country through education, which would help attract others to the faith. He believed that Catholics should “integrate” their faith into the rest of their daily life.
He was consecrated a bishop on June 11, 1951, and served as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York from 1951 to 1965. The Principal Consecrator was the Discalced Carmelite Cardinal Adeodato Giovanni Piazza, the Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina e Poggio Mirteto and the Secretary of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation (what is today the Congregation for Bishops). The Principal Co-Consecrators were Archbishop Leone Giovanni Battista Nigris, Titular Archbishop of Philippi and the Secretary of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (what is today the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples); and Archbishop Martin John O’Connor, Titular Archbishop of Laodicea in Syria and President Emeritus of thePontifical Council for Social Communications.
A popular instructor, Sheen wrote the first of 73 books in 1925, and in 1930 began a weekly Sunday night radio broadcast, The Catholic Hour.Sheen called WWII not only a political struggle, but also a “theological one.” He referred to Hitler as an example of the “Anti-Christ.” Two decades later, the broadcast had a weekly listening audience of four million people. Time referred to him in 1946 as “the golden-voiced Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen, U.S. Catholicism’s famed proselytizer” and reported that his radio broadcast received 3,000–6,000 letters weekly from listeners. During the middle of this era, he conducted the first religious service broadcast on the new medium of television, putting in motion a new avenue for his religious pursuits.
In 1951 he began a weekly television program on the DuMont Television Network titled Life Is Worth Living. Filmed at the Adelphi Theatre in New York City, the program consisted of the unpaid Sheen simply speaking in front of a live audience without a script or cue cards, occasionally using a chalkboard.
The show, scheduled in a graveyard slot on Tuesday nights at 8:00 p.m., was not expected to challenge the ratings giants Milton Berle andFrank Sinatra, but did surprisingly well. Berle, known to many early television viewers as “Uncle Miltie” and for using ancient vaudeville material, joked about Sheen, “He uses old material, too”, and observed that “[i]f I’m going to be eased off the top by anyone, it’s better that I lose to the One for whom Bishop Sheen is speaking.” Sheen responded in jest that maybe people should start calling him “Uncle Fultie”. Life and Time magazine ran feature stories on Bishop Sheen. The number of stations carrying Life Is Worth Living jumped from three to fifteen in less than two months. There was fan mail that flowed in at a rate of 8,500 letters per week. There were four times as many requests for tickets than could be fulfilled. Admiral, the sponsor, paid the production costs in return for a one-minute commercial at the opening of the show and another minute at the close. In 1952 Sheen won an Emmy Award for his efforts, accepting the acknowledgment by saying, “I feel it is time I pay tribute to my four writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” Time called him “the first ‘televangelist'”, and the Archdiocese of New York could not meet the demand for tickets.
One of his best-remembered presentations came in February 1953, when he forcefully denounced the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin. Sheen gave a dramatic reading of the burial scene from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, substituting the names of prominent Soviet leaders Stalin, Lavrenty Beria, Georgy Malenkov, and Andrey Vyshinsky for the original Caesar, Cassius, Marc Antony, and Brutus. He concluded by saying, “Stalin must one day meet his judgment.” The dictator suffered a stroke a few days later and died within a week.
The show ran until 1957, drawing as many as 30 million people on a weekly basis. In 1958, Sheen became national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, serving for eight years before being appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, New York, on October 26, 1966. He also hosted a nationally syndicated series, The Fulton Sheen Program, from 1961 to 1968 (first in black and white and then in color). The format of this series was essentially the same as Life Is Worth Living.
International cassette tape ministry
In September 1974, the Archbishop of Washington asked Sheen to be the speaker for a retreat for diocesan priests at the Loyola Retreat House in Faulkner, Maryland. This was recorded on reel-to-reel tape, state of the art at the time.
Sheen requested that the recorded talks be produced for distribution. This was the first production of what would become a worldwide cassette tape ministry called Ministr-O-Media, a nonprofit company that operated on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Parish. The retreat album was titled, Renewal and Reconciliation, and included nine 60-minute audio tapes.
For several years, Ministr-O-Media was one of the largest distributors of non-musical tapes in the United States.rectory dining room and eventually grew into five temporary classrooms on the church property, employing nine parishioners full-time, and at one point 18 workers in all. At its height, Ministr-O-Media staff and volunteers were packaging and mailing 500 albums a week and, in ten years, shipped a million tapes to clients worldwide. The effort generated income of $15,000 per week.
The operation started in the St. Joseph’s
St. Joseph’s Parish was targeted to be closed due to lack of funding for repairs before the chance connection between Sheen and Brady.
The parish, founded in 1763, owed its continued existence to the intervention of Sheen and the tape ministry that rebuilt the church, in collaboration with a dedicated workforce of parish volunteers.
At Sheen’s direction, most of the tape ministry profits were turned over to the pope’s worldwide missionary effort, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In its decade of existence, Ministr-O-Media routed over a quarter million U.S. dollars to this charity.
Sheen was credited with helping convert a number of notable figures to the Catholic faith, including agnostic writer Heywood Broun, politician Clare Boothe Luce, automaker Henry Ford II, Communist writer Louis F. Budenz, theatrical designer Jo Mielziner, violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler, and actress Virginia Mayo. Each conversion process took an average of 25 hours of lessons, and reportedly more than 95% of his students in private instruction were baptized.
Fallout with Cardinal Spellman
According to the foreword written for a 2008 edition of Sheen’s autobiography, Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, Catholic journalist Raymond Arroyo wrote why Sheen “retired” from hosting Life is Worth Living “at the height of its popularity … [when] an estimated 30 million viewers and listeners tuned in each week.” Arroyo wrote that “It is widely believed that Cardinal Spellman drove Sheen off the air.”
Arroyo relates that “In the late 1950s the government donated millions of dollars worth of powdered milk to the New York Archdiocese. In turn, Cardinal Spellman handed that milk over to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith to distribute to the poor of the world. On at least one occasion he demanded that the director of the Society, Bishop Sheen, pay the Archdiocese for the donated milk. He wanted millions of dollars. Despite Cardinal Spellman’s considerable powers of persuasion and influence in Rome, Sheen refused. These were funds donated by the public to the missions, funds Sheen himself had personally contributed to and raised over the airwaves. He felt an obligation to protect them, even from the itchy fingers of his own Cardinal.”
Spellman later took the issue directly to Pope Pius XII, pleading his case with Sheen present. The Pope sided with Sheen. Spellman later confronted Sheen stating “I will get even with you. It may take six months or ten years, but everyone will know what you are like.” Besides being pressured to leave television Sheen also “found himself unwelcome in the churches of New York. Spellman cancelled Sheen’s annual Good Friday sermons at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and discouraged clergy from befriending the Bishop.” In 1966 Spellman had Sheen reassigned to Rochester, New York and caused his leadership at the Society for the Propagation of the Faith to be terminated (a position he had held for 16 years and raised hundreds of millions for, to which he had personally donated 10 million of his own earnings).
Sheen never talked about the situation, only making vague references to his “trials both inside and outside the Church”. He even went so far as to praise Spellman in his autobiography.
While serving in Rochester, he created the Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation, which survives to this day. He also spent some of his energy on political activities, such as his denunciation of the Vietnam War in late July 1967. On Ash Wednesday in 1967, Sheen decided to give St. Bridget’s Parish building to the federal Housing and Urban Development program. Sheen wanted to let the government use it for black Americans. There was a protest, since Sheen acted on his own accord. The pastor disagreed, saying that “There is enough empty property around without taking down the church and the school.” The deal fell through.
On October 15, 1969, one month after celebrating his 50th anniversary as a priest, Sheen resigned from his position and was then appointed Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (Wales) by Pope Paul VI. This ceremonial position allowed Sheen to continue his extensive writing. Archbishop Sheen wrote 73 books and numerous articles and columns.
On October 2, 1979, two months before Sheen’s death, Pope John Paul II visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and embraced Sheen, saying, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church.”
Death and legacy
Beginning in 1977 Sheen “underwent a series of surgeries that sapped his strength and even made preaching difficult.” Throughout this time he continued to work on his autobiography, parts of which “were recited from his sickbed as he clutched a crucifix.” Sheen died of heart disease on December 9, 1979, having previously had open-heart surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is interred in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, near the deceased Archbishops of New York.
The official repository of Sheen’s papers, television programs, and other materials is at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in Rochester, New York.
Joseph Campanella introduces the re-runs of Sheen’s various programs that are aired on EWTN. Reruns are also aired on Trinity Broadcasting Network. In addition to his television appearances, Sheen can also be heard on Relevant Radio.
The Fulton J. Sheen Museum, which is operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria and located in Peoria, Illinois, houses the largest collection of Sheen’s personal items in 5 collections. The Museum is located just one block south of Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception where Sheen served as an altar boy, had his first communion and confirmation, was ordained and celebrated his first Mass. Another museum is located in Sheen’s home town of El Paso, Illinois. This museum contains various Sheen artifacts, but is not connected to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria.
Cause for canonization
The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation was formed in 1998 by Gregory J. Ladd and Lawrence F. Hickey to make known the life of the archbishop. The foundation approached Cardinal John O’Connor of the Archdiocese of New York for permission to commence the process of for cause, which was under the authority of the Diocese of Peoria.
In 2002, Sheen’s Cause for Canonization as a saint was officially opened by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, and from then on Sheen was referred to as a “Servant of God“.
On February 2, 2008, the archives of Sheen were sealed at a ceremony during a special Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois, where the diocese was sponsoring his canonization.
In November 2010, it was announced that the cause would be paused due to a disagreement with the Archdiocese of New York upon an unsettled debate concerning the return of Sheen’s remains to the Diocese of Peoria.
In 2009, the diocesan phase of the investigation came to an end, and the records were sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican in Rome.
On June 28, 2012, the Vatican announced officially that it had recognized Sheen’s life as one of “heroic virtue”. This is a major step towards an eventual beatification. From this moment on, Sheen is styled “Venerable Servant of God”.
According to Catholic News Service and The Catholic Post (the official newspaper of the Peoria Diocese), the case of a boy who as an infant had no discernible pulse for 61 minutes (who was about to be declared dead at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, as a stillborn infant) and yet allegedly still lived to be healthy – without physical or mental impairment – is in the preliminary stages of being investigated as the possible miracle needed for Archbishop Sheen’s potential beatification. If the miracle is approved at the diocesan level, and then by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican (being both medically unexplainable and directly attributable theologically to Sheen’s intercession according to expert panels in both subject areas), then beatification may proceed. Another such miracle would be required for him to be considered for canonization as a saint.
On September 7, 2011, a tribunal of inquiry was sworn in to investigate the alleged healing. During a special Mass at 10:30 am on Sunday, December 11, 2011, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, the documentation gathered by the tribunal over nearly three months was boxed and sealed. It will then be shipped to the Vatican for consideration by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, concluding the diocesan tribunal’s work – which makes up much of the diocese’s work on the project.
On Sunday, September 9, 2012, a Mass of Thanksgiving and banquet was held at St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Spalding Pastoral Center in celebration of the advancement of Archbishop Sheen’s cause, with Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., and his predecessor as Bishop of Peoria, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers (celebrating his 25th anniversary of episcopal ordination), in attendance, along with many of the clergy and religious of the diocese and from around the country. Copies of the “Positio”, or the book detailing the documentation behind his cause, were presented to Archbishop Myers, to representatives of the Church in other states, and to a delegate from the Archdiocese of Chicago, and to other patrons and supporters of his cause. According to statements made during the service by clergy connected to the Cause, the medical and theological study of the potential miracles needed for his beatification and canonization is currently well underway and at least one is seriously being considered. Due to new rules under Pope Benedict XVI stating that a beatification should occur locally, ideally in the candidate’s home Diocese (which is usually but not always the Diocese that sponsors the Cause), it would likely take place in Peoria, the first there. Should he be beatified and canonized, he would be among a select few natives of the U.S. to hold that distinction.
On Thursday, March 6, 2014 it was announced that a Vatican panel of medical experts could not determine a natural cause to a miracle attributed to Sheen, this is a major step on the road to beatification. The miracle: the reviving of the still-born baby mentioned above who survived intact, so far, without having a detectable pulse at his birth for a lengthy period without explanation. For 61 minutes, while his mother prayed for Fulton Sheen’s intercession, the child did not breathe and only took his first breaths as doctors were calling his time of death. Doctors predicted the child to grow up with terrifying effects like organ failure and cerebral palsy. After the child’s first 5 months, he was considered to be a normally healthy child. The case will now go on to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, for further review. If the Congregation approves the miracle, then the cause will be passed on to Pope Francis, who will ultimately decide and sign and publish documentation on whether or not to beatify Archbishop Sheen, granting him the title of “Blessed”. 
On Thursday, June 17, 2014, a seven-member panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints also unanimously agreed that the aforementioned case could be attributable to the baby boy’s parents asking for Archbishop Sheen’s intercession during the 61-minute period. Having been evaluated and approved by both medical and theological examination, the case now will be examined by the Bishops and Cardinals who are members and officials of the Congregation, who must give their approval before the case can be forwarded to Pope Francis.
Indefinite suspension of cause for canonization
However, on September 3, 2014, the cause was suspended indefinitely, not for problems with Sheen’s moral character or with the miracle investigation, but because the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, within whose territory he is buried, had refused a request by Bishop Jenky of Peoria (who is the Actor, or supervisor, of the cause efforts because of his position as Bishop of Peoria) to have Archbishop Sheen’s remains moved to Peoria. This needed to be done so the body could be closely examined and first-class relics taken, both of which are among the final steps that take place before beatification and canonization. The cause for his beatification, per the Vatican’s directions, will be archived in the historical records of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. The Peoria Diocese said there would be no further immediate comment.
Normally, sainthood causes take many years to progress to canonization; the exceptions to these cases (causes of martyrs, who only need one miracle for sainthood; or where the Pope has granted a waiver to start the process sooner after death) are quite apart from the norm. Nevertheless, the potential for a long delay was very frustrating to many in the area and beyond who had helped and funded his cause, and to his other supporters. Following are links to the Diocese of Peoria (with one statement from Bishop Jenky’s office and an update by Diocesan Chancellor Patricia Gibson), and one from Mr. Joseph Zwilling, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of New York, issued on behalf of the Archdiocese, that shed light on the situation and on both their views surrounding the matter.
The following is the statement released by the Archdiocese of New York on the issue. According to it, Cardinal Dolan wanted to respect the desires of not only Sheen, himself, but his closest family members. In particular, a niece.
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- The Seven Last Words (1933, The Century Co.)
- Philosophy of Science (1934, Bruce Publishing Co.)
- The Eternal Galilean (1934, Appleton-Century-Crofts)
- Calvary and the Mass (1936, P. J. Kenedy & Sons)
- The Cross and the Beatitudes (1937, P. J. Kenedy & Sons)
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- Communism and the Conscience of the West (1948, Bobbs-Merrill)
- Peace of Soul (1949, McGraw–Hill)
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- The World’s First Love (1952, McGraw-Hill)
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- Way to Inner Peace (1955, Garden City Books)
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- The Power of Love (1965, Simon & Schuster)
- Footprints in a Darkened Forest (1967, Meredith Press)
- Lenten and Easter Inspirations (1967, Maco Ecumenical Books)
- Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen (1980, Doubleday & Co.)
- Finding True Happiness (2014, Dynamic Catholic)
- Reeves, Thomas C. (2001), America’s Bishop. The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen. Encounter Books, San Francisco.
- Riley, Kathleen L.(2004), “Fulton J. Sheen: An American Catholic Response to the Twentieth Century”. St/Paul’s/AlbaHouse, Staten Island.
- Sherwood, Timothy H. (2010), The Preaching of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: The Gospel Meets the Cold War. Lexington Books. 137 p.
- Sherwood, Timothy H. (2013). The Rhetorical Leadership of Fulton J. Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale, and Billy Graham in the Age of Extremes (Lexington Books; 2013) 158 pages
- Winsboro, Irvin D. S., Michael Epple, “Religion, Culture, and the Cold War: Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and America’s Anti-Communist Crusade of the 1950s,” Historian, 71,2 (2009), 209–233.
- ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f “Fulton Sheen Biography and Inspiration”. Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
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- Jump up^ Fulton J. Sheen. Treasure in Clay, Ch. 2 “The Molding of the Clay”, p. 9, 1980 .
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- Jump up^ Encyclopedia of American Religious History. p. 921. ISBN 978-0816066605. RetrievedMarch 3, 2013.
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- ^ Jump up to:a b c d Bearden, Michelle (January 24, 2009). “Mass Today Promotes Sheen For Sainthood”.Tampa Tribune. p. 10.
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- Jump up^ John T. McGreevy, Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North, University of Chicago Press, 1996, 242
- Jump up^ The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Archives accessed August 15, 2007 Archived February 28, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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- Jump up^ “The Catholic Post : Article – Entries sought for sacred art show planned in Rock Island”. Cdop.org. January 29, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
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- Jump up^ This book was Sheen’s response to Rabbi Joshua L. Liebman’s 1946 best-seller Peace of Mind.
Sheen cause suspended, call for prayer
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following are news releases from the Diocese of Peoria regarding the suspension of the Cause for the beatification and canonization of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
SHEEN CAUSE SUSPENDED, CALL FOR PRAYER
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
It is with immense sadness that the Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, Bishop of Peoria and President of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation, announced today that the Cause for Sheen’s beatification and canonization has for the foreseeable future been suspended. The process to verify a possible miracle attributed to Sheen had been going extremely well, and only awaited a vote of the Cardinals and the approval of the Holy Father. There was every indication that a possible date for beatification in Peoria would have been scheduled for as early as the coming year. The Holy See expected that the remains of Venerable Sheen would be moved to Peoria where official inspection would be made and first class relics be taken. Subsequently, the Archdiocese of New York denied Bishop Jenky’s request to move the body to Peoria. After further discussion with Rome, it was decided that the Sheen Cause would now have to be relegated to the Congregation’s historic archive.
Countless supporters especially from the local church in Central Illinois have given their time, treasure and talent for this good work with the clear understanding that the body of Venerable Sheen would return to the Diocese. Bishop Jenky was personally assured on several occasions by the Archdiocese of New York that the transfer of the body would take place at the appropriate time. New York’s change of mind took place as the work on behalf of the Cause had reached a significant stage.
Bishop Jenky is what is technically called the “actor” of the Sheen Cause. The Diocese of Peoria and the Sheen Foundation have prayed and labored for this good work for the last twelve years. The Bishop is heartbroken not only for his flock in Peoria but also for the many supporters of the Sheen Cause from throughout the world who have so generously supported Peoria’s efforts. It should be noted, however, that saints are always made by God not by man. Efforts for many causes have sometimes taken decades or even centuries. Bishop Jenky urges that those who support the Sheen Cause continue their prayers that God’s will be made manifest.
No further comment will be released at this time.
DIOCESE OF PEORIA PRESENTS ADDITIONAL CLARIFICATIONS REGARDING THE SUSPENSION OF THE ARCHBISHOP FULTON SHEEN CAUSE OF SAINTHOOD
Friday, September 5, 2014
After an outpouring of great support for the actions taken by Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria regarding the suspension of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Cause of Sainthood, the Diocese is providing additional clarifications.
According to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Peoria, Patricia Gibson, who has worked with the Cause from the beginning, “Bishop Jenky only agreed to pursue the cause for canonization of Fulton Sheen after he was assured by the Archdiocese of New York that they had no interest in pursuing the cause but would support Peoria’s efforts. Specifically, Bishop Jenky was told by Cardinal Egan in September 2002 that New York was not interested in pursuing the cause. He also indicated that at the appropriate time he would facilitate the transfer of the body to Peoria. In December 2004, Cardinal Egan again confirmed at a meeting in New York with Bishop Jenky that he continued to support the efforts of the Cause and reassured him that he would work to transfer the body at the appropriate time to be enshrined in the Peoria Cathedral.”
Based on this ongoing assurance, Bishop Jenky wrote to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in early 2005 asking for the body to be transferred to Peoria. They did not in any way forbid the transfer of the body but simply indicated that it was not the appropriate time. The Congregation indicated that “the transfer was not opportune at this time because the Diocesan inquiry had just been started in the Diocese of Peoria.” With this inquiry complete and a miracle being attributed to Sheen, now is an appropriate time.
On June 27, 2014, the Diocese of Peoria received the most recent communication from the Archdiocese of New York. This letter from its lawyer definitively stated that it would never allow the examination of the body, the securing of relics or the transfer of the body. Upon receiving this shocking statement and consulting with advisors to the Sheen Cause, Bishop Jenky believed that he had no choice but to stop his efforts and suspend the Cause.
Gibson added, “It is essential to realize that Bishop Jenky now feels a great responsibility to be faithful to the thousands of supporters throughout Central Illinois, the nation and the world, in regard to the status of the cause. From the beginning, Bishop Jenky sought assurances that New York did not want to undertake the Cause and would support Peoria’s efforts. This assurance was given before the process ever began. Bishop Jenky also confirmed that at the appropriate time Fulton Sheen’s body would be transferred to his boyhood home and be placed in a shrine in St. Mary’s Cathedral where he was ordained. Over the last twelve years, countless people have offered their time and financial support for these efforts in order not only to spread the word about Fulton Sheen’s virtues and holiness but also to prepare a shrine in Peoria upon his beatification. After New York clearly turned down the Cause, Peoria was happy to put forth the lengthy work and effort because of how much he is loved by the priests and lay faithful in this Diocese.”
Clearly Archbishop Sheen’s wishes for his final resting place could not have anticipated that he would go through a canonization process led by his native Diocese of Peoria, after it was turned down by the Archdiocese of New York. The Diocese of Peoria has heard from several relatives this week regarding their desire that Bishop Jenky continue to work towards having the body transferred as was presumed from the beginning.
The Chancellor, Patricia Gibson, further states, “The actions taken by Bishop Jenky this week reflect his strong desire to be true to the countless supporters of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Cause who for over twelve years have labored and supported bringing the message of Fulton Sheen and his sanctity to the world. Bishop Jenky continues to hope that the promises made twelve years ago will be honored.”