Cardinal George

Venerable Sheen celebrated as a ‘model of virtue’

By Tom Dermody | Peoria Catholic Post
Sunday, September 23, 2012

Venerable Sheen celebrated as a ‘model of virtue’

Calling Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen “the model of virtue our world needs today,” friends and family of the famed media evangelist and author gathered Sept. 9 to give thanks for Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decree of “venerable” for him, advancing his sainthood cause.
Mother Vaclava Ballon, Sister Marion Hudackova, and Sister Salezia Rudyova, Franciscan Sisters of John the Baptist, sing during the opening hymm. Hundreds gathered Sept. 9 in Peoria, Ill.'s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception for a Mass celebrating Pope Benedict XVI declaring Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen "venerable." Sheen was a native of Peoria and received his First Communion, Confirmation and was ordained a priest in the cathedral. Because of his contribution to televised preaching Sheen is often referred to as one of the first televangelists. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
Bishop Daniel Robert Jenky of Peoria, prepares to open the Mass while standing near copies of the Positio after they have just been carried up in the entrance procession. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
Bishop Daniel Robert Jenky of Peoria holds onto a program from the Mass. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Sheen Foundation, gives the homily. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
(Karen Callaway / CNS)
Several copies of the Positio were presented to individuals and institutions that helped benefit the cause and make the publication of "Positio Super Vita, Virtutibus et Fama Sanctitatis", possible. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
Bishop Daniel Robert Jenky of Peoria, hands a copy of the Positio to Fr. James O'Brien, representing Cardinal George and the Archdiocese of Chicago during the Mass. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
(Karen Callaway / CNS)
Bishop Daniel Robert Jenky of Peoria, prays while waiting for the gifts. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
Richard Hansen, a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus from Mt. Zion takes a picture during a tour in the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Museum following the Mass. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
(Karen Callaway / CNS)
Items on display, such as these Byzantine Rite Vestments, belonging to the archbishop, are in display in the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Museum. (Karen Callaway / CNS)
Guests viewed a running video of some of Sheens broadcasts in the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Museum following the Mass. (Karen Callaway / CNS)

Calling Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen “the model of virtue our world needs today,” friends and family of the famed media evangelist and author gathered Sept. 9 to give thanks for Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decree of “venerable” for him, advancing his sainthood cause.

The assembly also prayed and expressed hopes for “an even greater celebration to come.”

Bishop Daniel Jenky — who formally opened the Diocese of Peoria’s inquiry into the cause a decade ago — was the principal celebrant of a Mass of thanksgiving that drew an overflow crowd to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

Among the concelebrants was Archbishop John Myers of Newark who, as Peoria bishop in the 1990s, was among the effort’s early supporters.

“Today, as we give thanks for the gift of this great man, let us double our commitment to pray for the success of the cause and that we, like Archbishop Fulton Sheen, will courageously continue to spread the message of the Gospel of Christ throughout the world,” said Bishop Jenky.

On June 28, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the heroic virtues of Archbishop Sheen and declared him venerable. If one of three documented, alleged miraculous healings through his intercession is approved, Archbishop Sheen could become the first Americanborn bishop to be beatified.

The beatification ceremony could also be the first to take place in the United States, perhaps in Peoria. A second miracle must be confirmed for canonization.

What world needs

Archbishop Sheen, born in El Paso, Ill., was a priest of the Diocese of Peoria who became a renowned theologian, orator and Emmy-award winning radio and television host whose programs were welcomed into tens of millions of homes in the mid-20th century. The former bishop of Rochester, N.Y., and national director of the Propagation of the Faith died in 1979.

The opening procession of the Mass in Peoria included the carrying forward of 20 specially bound volumes of research outlining why Archbishop Sheen should be declared a saint. Known as the “positio,” the boxed sets were stacked in the cathedral sanctuary and presented to representative individuals and groups at the close of the liturgy.

“I am truly grateful for the many of you who have traveled so far, have given so much, and have prayed so hard to see this day,” said Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director for the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation, as the volumes were distributed by Bishop Jenky.

“And I remind you that there is still greater work and more prayers to be had as we thank God and beg that God’s church would soon declare Venerable Fulton Sheen to be Blessed Fulton Sheen,” continued Msgr. Deptula. “Let us pray for that great day.”

In a spirited homily, Msgr. Deptula said that after the pope’s declaration of Archbishop Sheen’s heroic virtues this summer, the press seemed most interested in talking about the alleged miraculous healings under investigation.

While they are “amazing, incredible stories,” the miracle that Msgr. Deptula preferred to talk about was the “miracle of God’s transformative love” in the life of Archbishop Sheen and in all who, like him, love Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Sheen’s zeal to preach the Gospel was rooted in his love for Christ and a promise he made on the day of his priestly ordination to spend one hour a day in eucharistic adoration, said Msgr. Deptula.

“Fulton Sheen could roar like a lion from the pulpit because he listened to the small, still voice of the merciful and just king of the universe,” said Msgr. Deptula. “He really loved Jesus. And he knew that Jesus loved him. And he wanted to share that love with the world.”

“This is what we celebrate today,” he continued. “This is what our world needs.”

Cause is moving

Among those attending the Mass, as well as weekend celebratory events at the Sheen Museum in the diocesan pastoral center, were dozens of Sheen relatives and others who knew him in life.

A large contingent came from Texas, which has formed its own chapter of the Sheen Foundation. Copies of the positio were presented to representatives of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston- Houston as well as Cardinal George to thank them for their support. Father James O’Brien accepted the positio on behalf of Cardinal George.

“Bishop Sheen would have loved it,” said Benedictine Sister Catherine Cleary of the Mass, which she said had energy, reverence and joy. Archbishop Sheen, a first cousin of Sister Catherine’s mother, also would have enjoyed the gathering of family whom he loved, including “beautiful nieces and nephews who are following in his footsteps.”

A trio of grandnieces reflected on their famous relative as they explored displays in the Sheen Museum. While as children they knew of the work for the church he did around the world, the women also remembered him as a kind uncle who stayed in their home during visits and played basketball.

“He blessed our kittens,” recalled Lynn Sheen-McCaddon of nearby Bartonville.

Miracle under study

Seated in the assembly was the family of Travis and Bonnie Engstrom of Goodfield. The alleged miraculous healing of their third child, James Fulton, is now under study at the Vatican as the miracle needed for Archbishop Sheen’s beatification.

James Fulton, who turns 2 on Sept. 16, was without a pulse for the first hour after his birth following a routine pregnancy. His heart began beating as doctors were ready to call his time of death. Bonnie had asked Archbishop Sheen to watch over her pregnancy and had prayed to him as CPR was performed on her newborn son.