.- The Diocese of Peoria announced Monday that Venerable Fulton Sheen will be beatified Dec. 21 at the city’s Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception.
Sheen had been ordained a priest of the diocese in that cathedral Sept. 20, 1919.
“It seems entirely fitting that the Beatification will take place at the end of this 100-year anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood,” the Peoria diocese stated Nov. 18.
Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was 24 when he was ordained a priest.
He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.
Sheen was a beloved television catechist during the 1950s and ’60s in the United States. His television show “Life is Worth Living” reached an audience of millions.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated a decree July 6 recognizing a miracle attributed to Sheen’s intercession, which allowed for his beatification.
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 as medical professionals tried to revive him. The child’s mother and father prayed to Archbishop Sheen to heal their son.
The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s canonization in 2002, after Archdiocese of New York said it would not explore the case. In 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the archbishop.
The beatification follows legal battles in civil courts over the location of Sheen’s body.
His corpse was transferred to the Peoria cathedral June 27 after a protracted series of suits.
Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the Archdiocese of New York Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York asked Joan Sheen Cunningham, Sheen’s niece and closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, and she consented.
In September 2014, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended Sheen’s cause on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.
Cunningham has since said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood. In 2016, she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to the Peoria cathedral.
In 2010, in central Illinois, a newborn infant was born showing no signs of life. This absence of vital signs lasted for 61 minutes. Family and friends immediately began offering prayers begging Fulton Sheen to intercede for their newborn child. The infant was transferred to OSF Medical Center in Peoria, a few blocks away from the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria where Sheen was ordained in 1919 and now is entombed.
Despite receiving the most advanced medical treatment available, the infant continued to show no signs of life. Moments before the doctor was going to declare the infant to be dead, suddenly and without any medical explanation, the infant’s heart began to beat normally and the baby breathed normally. After 61 minutes without a heartbeat, the baby was alive! After a few weeks in the hospital, the infant was sent home and has now grown into a healthy young child.
In 2011, the Diocese of Peoria initiated a canonical investigation into the events of this miraculous recovery. This investigation examined medical records and testimony provided by family members, EMT’s, doctors, nurses, and others present at the time of birth. Each testified that there was no medical explanation for the infant’s recovery. Nearly all involved, and some with tears, stated, “It was a miracle.”
In December 2011, the findings of the Peoria investigation were presented to the Vatican’s Congregation of the Causes of Saints. This case was reviewed by a panel of medical experts, theologians, and finally by the Cardinals and the Bishops of the Congregation. This miracle received a unanimous recommendation at every stage of the process. This week, the Congregation’s favorable findings were presented to Pope Francis. Today, Pope Francis has declared the recovery of the infant to be a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen.
Bishop Jenky stated:
“It is truly amazing how God continues to work miracles. 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.”
Now that the miracle has been confirmed by Pope Francis, the Diocese of Peoria can formally begin planning for the Beatification of Archbishop Sheen, which will take place in Peoria. According to the current practice of the Vatican, a Beatification is celebrated in the local diocese where the Cause was instructed. Once the date for the Beatification is granted by Pope Francis, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Prefect for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, would come to Peoria to preside at the ceremony.
Although the date of Beatification is not known at this time, Bishop Jenky hopes and prays that the date of Beatification will be announced very soon. Bishop Jenky continues to be hopeful that Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen will be Beatified during this 100th anniversary year of his ordination to the priesthood in Peoria.
In the meantime, the Diocese will now begin preparing for the Beatification celebration. The Diocese of Peoria has established a website in order to assist the faithful in preparing for the Beatification. Bishop Jenky encourages everyone to visit the website, celebratesheen.com.
The Diocese of Peoria issued the following press release on Monday afternoon, Nov. 18.
PEORIA, IL: It is with great joy and thanksgiving that the Most Reverend Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois announces that he received notification from the Vatican today that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called for Venerable Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen’s Beatification on December 21, 2019.
Confirmation of Sheen’s Beatification date was received with enthusiasm, and plans for the Beatification are already underway. The Beatification Ceremony will be held at 10:00 a.m. on December 21, 2019, at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois. This is the same Cathedral where Sheen was ordained a priest 100 years ago on September 20, 1919. It seems entirely fitting that the Beatification will take place at the end of this 100-year anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. The Cathedral is also the current resting place for Sheen, who is entombed in a marble vault next to the altar where he was ordained.
Further information regarding the Beatification will be released in the next few days. Information about the Cause for Beatification of Fulton Sheen can be found at celebratesheen.com.