U.S. Archbishop Fulton Sheen is pictured in an undated file photo. (CNS, courtesy of the Pontifical Mission Societies)

VATICAN CITY (CNA) — Pope Francis approved the miracle attributed to Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen Friday, making possible the American television catechist’s beatification.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Born: May 8, 1895
Ordained: Sept. 20, 1919 for the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois
Consecrated: June 11, 1951
Service as bishop:

Media Career

  • 1930-1952, “The Catholic Hour”
  • 1951-1957, “Life is Worth Living”
  • 1958-1961, “The Best of Bishop Sheen”
  • 1961-1968, “The Fulton Sheen Program”

Died: Dec. 9, 1979
Named Servant of God: Sept. 14, 2002
Declared Venerable: June 28, 2012

CAUSE FOR CANONIZATION

THE FULTON J. SHEEN COMPANY, INC.

ARCHBISHOP FULTON SHEEN SPIRITUAL CENTRE

THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA

The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated the decree approving Sheen’s miracle on July 6. The announcement comes little more than a week after the archbishop’s remains were transferred to the Diocese of Peoria from New York.

The miracle involves the unexplained recovery of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy born apparently stillborn in September 2010 to Bonnie and Travis Engstrom of the Peoria-area town of Goodfield. He showed no signs of life for 61 minutes as medical professionals tried to revive him. The child’s mother and father prayed to Archbishop Sheen to heal their son, and after a few weeks, was he was sent home and has now grown into a healthy young child, according to a press release from the Diocese of Peoria.

The Illinois diocese initiated a canonical investigation and examined medical records and testimony provided by family members, EMTs, doctors, nurses and others present at the time fo the birth. Each testified there was no medical explanation for the infant’s recovery and nearly all involved stated: “It was a miracle,” according to the statement.

“It is truly amazing how God continues to work miracles,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria. “I am so grateful that the Vatican acted so quickly after last week’s transfer of Sheen’s remains from New York to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria.”

A seven-member panel of medical experts advising the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints gave unanimous approval of the miracle attributed to the famous television personality and evangelist in March 2014.

Archbishop Sheen was a beloved television catechist during the 1950s and ‘60s in the United States. His Emmy-award winning television show “Life is Worth Living” reached an audience of millions.

Sheen was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois at the age of 24, and was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, where he remained until his appointment as bishop of Rochester, New York in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

On June 27, Sheen’s remains were transferred from the Archdiocese of New York to Peoria, following a long legal battle over the late archbishop’s burial place that had put Sheen’s sainthood cause on hold.

The Peoria Diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s canonization in 2002, after the Archdiocese of New York said it would not explore the case. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the archbishop.

Jeff and Katherine Dobbs sit with their newborn son, Fulton, at their home after being released from the hospital in early March in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Fulton, named after U.S. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, was born Christmas Eve with an immunodeficiency that remains undiagnosed. (CNS, courtesy of Jeff and Katherine Dobbs)

In September 2014, Bishop Jenky of Peoria suspended Sheen’s cause on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria Diocese.

Fulton Sheen’s niece Joan Cunningham filed a legal complaint in 2016 seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria. The Archdiocese of New York repeatedly appealed the attempt to transfer Sheen’s remains to Peoria.

On June 7, the New York Court of Appeals denied further appeal of the New York Supreme Court decision upholding Cunningham’s petition and later that month Sheen’s remains were moved to Peoria.

No date has been given for Sheen’s beatification. Another recognized miracle attributed to Sheen would lead to his canonization as a saint.

Along with Fulton Sheen, the Vatican Congregation of the Causes of Saints also recognized the heroic virtues of seven Servants of God:

  • Lebanese Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Elia Hoyek (1843-1931);
  • Italian Archbishop Giovanni Vittorio Ferro of Reggio Calabria-Bova (1901-1992);
  • Spanish founder of the Institute of  Missionaries of Charity Ángel Riesco Carbajo (1902-1972);
  • Polish Father Ladislao Korniłowicz, a diocesan priest (1884-1946);
  • Italian Franciscan Father Angelico Lipani (1842-1920);
  • Filipino foundress of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena Francisca del Espíritu Santo (1647-1711); and
  • French lay founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Maternal Charity Etienne-Pierre Morlanne (1772-1862).

Pope Francis also approved the equipollent canonization of Blessed Bartholomew of the Martyrs, the 16th-century Portugese Domician archbishop of Braga, inscribing him in the book of saints.


— By Courtney Grogan, Catholic News Agency.