By Kevin J. Jones
Peoria, Ill., Jun 30, 2012 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest connected with the cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen has said the “historic speed” with which he was declared venerable could be a sign that next steps to the beatification and canonization of the famous U.S. television evangelist and author might proceed at a rapid pace.
Msgr. Stanley Deptula, the executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation, told a June 29 telephone press conference that only God knows whether and when Ven. Fulton Sheen will advance to sainthood.
However, the speed of Fulton Sheen’s cause has been “remarkably quick.”
“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.”
Ven. Fulton Sheen’s cause has support from cardinals, bishops and priests around the world because he meant “so much” in their own lives and vocations, Msgr. Deptula explained.
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.” Ven. Fulton Sheen authored many books and headed Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He served as an auxiliary bishop of New York and as Bishop of Rochester.
He continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death in 1979 at the age of 84.
His cause for sainthood was opened in 2002. An authenticated miracle is now needed for Ven. Fulton Sheen to be beatified, the last step before canonization.
Msgr. Deptula said that three “fully documented alleged miracles” attributed to Fulton 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 to submit 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. “Only God works a miracle, but only the Church can authenticate a miracle.”
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill. and several other priests addressed the June 29 press conference.
The bishop said that Ven. Fulton Sheen “displayed virtues that the rest of us can try to imitate.” He was a “pioneer” in using media to proclaim the gospel and preached and taught “relentlessly.”
“We are so happy that His Holiness has declared Fulton Sheen venerable,” Bishop Jenky said.
At the start of his priestly life in Peoria, Ven. Fulton 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,” he said. “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.”
Ven. Fulton 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 that 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.
He said that Sheen is “beloved around the world” and very few new possible saints are known as globally as him.
“As Americans that’s something we can be proud of,” said Fr. Small.
Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, the vice-postulator of Fulton Sheen’s cause, called Sheen “a true disciple of Jesus.”
He 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.”
Fr. Apostoli recounted: “As I thought about that, I said to myself ‘God willing, he’s the saint we need’.”
Bishop Jenky will preside at a Sept 9 thanksgiving Mass at Peoria’s Cathedral of St. Mary.
“Fulton Sheen plays very well in Peoria,” the bishop said. He reported that the cathedral has been filled at every Mass commemorating the archbishop.
In response to the Vatican decree, the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation has launched a website about the celebrations at www.celebratesheen.com.