Archbishop Sheen decree a 'great day' for US Catholics

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Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria says the declaration of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen as “venerable” is wonderful news for both the diocese and the Catholic Church in America.

On June 28 the Pope Benedict XVI authorized the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of the much loved U.S. archbishop, author and television evangelist. The move brings Sheen closer to sainthood.

“Fulton Sheen's zeal, wisdom, and holiness should help us build our faith,” Bishop Jenky said. He thanked God that the Catholic Church has recognized “a son from central Illinois.”

Archbishop Sheen was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria and went on to become a prominent speaker and author. In addition to serving as an auxiliary bishop of New York and Bishop of Rochester, was best known for his weekly radio broadcast “The Catholic Hour” and his later weekly television program “Life is Worth Living.”

The archbishop died in 1979 at the age of 84. His cause for sainthood was opened in 2002.

Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation in Peoria, said the Catholic Church in America needs “heroes to inspire us to stand up and to fall to our knees.”

“I think in a special way, Venerable Fulton Sheen can be an inspiration and a consolation to our bishops and other Church leaders. He was a man of courage, and priest of prayer.”

In response to the decree, Bishop Jenky will celebrate a thanksgiving Mass on Sept. 9 at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria.

If a recognized miracle is attributed to him, he can be beatified. Two recognized miracles mean he can be canonized as a saint.

One possible alleged Fulton Sheen miracle is already under investigation.

In December 2011 a tribunal of the Diocese of Peoria, Ill. concluded its investigation into a reputed miracle attributed to Archbishop Sheen’s intercession. It sent the results to the Vatican for consideration.

Bonnie Engstrom and her husband Travis prayed to Archbishop Sheen in September 2010 after she delivered an apparently stillborn son at home in Goodfield, Ill.

The baby, named James Fulton after the archbishop,  was rushed to the hospital but had no pulse for 61 minutes after his birth. Following their prayers his heart started beating and he escaped serious medical problems.

Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, the postulator leading Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization, did not speak about the possible miracle. However, he said the canonization cause is “taking a special road” and moving “quite quickly.”

“This is due to the importance of this cause for Fulton Sheen's sainthood to the American Church and all the faithful,” he said June 28. “We hope to go on with continued momentum.”

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