Archbishop Sheen beatification could come ‘very quickly’

PEORIA, ILL. (CNA/EWTN NEWS) — A priest connected with the cause of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has said the “historic speed” with which he was declared “venerable” could be the sign of a rapid beatification and canonization process for the famous U.S. television evangelist.

Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation, told a June 29 telephone press conference that only God knows whether and when Venerable Fulton Sheen will advance to sainthood.

However, “this cause enjoys the support of cardinals and bishops and priests around the world, so much does Fulton Sheen mean in their own lives and own vocations,” the monsignor said. “We might be very hopeful that with this level of support, and the importance Fulton Sheen means to the Church in the modern world, we might see that these next steps progress very quickly.”

On June 28 Pope Benedict XVI authorized a decree that recognized the heroic virtues of the beloved host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the ABC television show “Life is Worth Living.” Sheen authored many books and headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He served as an auxiliary bishop of New York and as bishop of Rochester, and continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death in 1979 at age 84.

His cause for sainthood was opened in 2002. An authenticated miracle is now needed for beatification, the last step before canonization.

Msgr. Deptula said three “fully documented alleged miracles” attributed to Archbishop Sheen’s intercession have been collected. However, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Saints asked those presenting his cause, known as “postulators,” to submit only one case.

The postulators chose the case of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy born apparently stillborn in September 2010 to Bonnie and Travis Engstrom of the Peoria-area town of Goodfield. The child’s mother and her husband prayed to Archbishop Sheen to heal their son.

Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating and he escaped serious medical problems.

“If all goes well, that miracle will be presented to the Holy Father for his authentication,” Msgr. Deptula explained.

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria praised Archbishop Sheen as a “pioneer” in using media to proclaim the Gospel. He preached and taught “relentlessly,” Bishop Jenky said, noting that at the start of his priestly life in Peoria, Sheen went door to door evangelizing “a dying parish,” powered by his continual prayer life.

“He always believed that the miracle of bringing more people to Christ came from the time spent on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament,” the bishop said. “Perhaps most importantly, he was a man of holiness, of intense daily prayer. That is an example that I believe the Church needs to imitate in these days.”

Msgr. Deptula said Sheen’s example can give Christians guidance on how to better engage the world by “using every tool at our disposal to bring the eternal and perennial Good News of Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters today.”

Sheen also dedicated the profits from his books into foreign missions.

Fr. Andrew Small, OMI, the current head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, said these efforts had brought “great fruits” in 1,150 dioceses around the world encompassing half the globe.

Sheen’s work has helped create 9,000 clinics, 10,000 orphanages, and 1,200 schools. The institutions his donations support now educate 80,000 seminarians and 9,000 vowed religious.

Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, the vice-postulator of Archbishop Sheen’s cause, cited Sheen’s essay “America Needs a Saint” in which the archbishop talked about “having a homegrown American saint, someone who grew up here in our country, to show that the Church had reached a maturity to produce saints.”

“As I thought about that,” Fr. Apostoli recounted, I said to myself ‘God willing, he’s the saint we need.’”

In response to the Vatican decree, the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation has launched a website about the celebrations at www.celebratesheen.com.