Our Division Namesake
Fulton J. Sheen
Fulton John Sheen, born Peter John Sheen (May 8, 1895 – December 9, 1979) was an American archbishop of the Catholic Church known for his preaching and especially his work on television and radio. His cause for canonization for sainthood was officially opened in 2002, so he is now referred to as a "Servant of God".
Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria in 1919, Sheen quickly became a renowned theologian, earning the Cardinal Mercier Prize for International Philosophy in 1923. He went on to teach theology and philosophy as well as acting as a parish priest before being appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1951. He held this position until 1966 when he was made the Bishop of Rochester. Sheen held this position for three years before resigning and being made the Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport, Wales.
For 20 years he hosted the night-time radio program The Catholic Hour (1930–1950) before moving to television and presenting Life Is Worth Living (1951–1957). Sheen's final presenting role was on the syndicated The Fulton Sheen Program (1961–1968) with a format very similar to that of the earlier Life is Worth Living show. For this work, Sheen won an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Television Personality. Starting in 2009, his shows were being re-broadcast on the EWTN and the Trinity Broadcasting Network's Church Channel cable networks. Due to his contribution to televised preaching Sheen is often referred to as one of the first televangelists.
Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois,
the oldest of four sons of Newton and Delia. Though he was known as
Fulton, his mother's maiden name, he was baptized as Peter John Sheen. As an infant, Sheen contracted tuberculosis. After the family moved to nearby Peoria, Illinois, Sheen's first role in the Church was as an altar boy at St. Mary's Cathedral.
After earning high school valedictorian honors at Spalding Institute in Peoria in 1913, Sheen was educated at St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, Illinois, attended Saint Paul Seminary in Minnesota before his ordination on September 20, 1919, then followed that with further studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C..
His youthful appearance was still evident on one occasion when a local
priest asked Sheen to assist as altar boy during the celebration of the
Sheen earned a doctorate in philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1923. While there, he became the first American ever to win the Cardinal Mercier award for the best philosophical treatise.
Sheen was for a year assistant to the pastor at St. Patrick's Church, Soho Square in London while teaching theology at St. Edmund's College, Ware, where he met Ronald Knox. Although Oxford and Columbia wanted him to teach philosophy, in 1926 Bishop Edmund Dunne
of Peoria, Illinois asked Sheen to take over St. Patrick's Parish.
After nine months, Dunne returned him to Catholic University, where he
taught philosophy until 1950.
A popular instructor, Sheen wrote the first of 73 books in 1925, and in 1930 began a weekly Sunday night radio broadcast, The Catholic Hour. Two decades later, the broadcast had a weekly listening audience of four million people. Time
referred to him in 1946 as "the golden-voiced Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen,
U.S. Catholicism's famed proselytizer" and reported that his radio
broadcast received 3,000–6,000 letters weekly from listeners. During the middle of this era, he conducted the first religious service broadcast on the new medium of television, putting in motion a new avenue for his religious pursuits.
In 1951 he began a weekly television program on the DuMont network, Life is Worth Living. Filmed at the Adelphi Theatre in New York City, the program consisted of the unpaid Sheen simply speaking in front of a live audience without a script or cue cards, often discussing the evils of "Darwin, Freud, Marx and Satan", occasionally using a chalkboard. The show, scheduled in a graveyard slot on Tuesday nights at 8:00 p.m., was not expected to challenge the ratings giants Milton BerleFrank Sinatra, but did surprisingly well. Berle joked, "He uses old material, too", and observed that "[i]f I'm going to be eased off the top by anyone, it's better that I lose to the One for whom Bishop Sheen is speaking." Sheen responded in jest that people should start calling him "Uncle Fultie". Life and Time magazine ran feature stories on Bishop Sheen. The number of stations carrying Life is Worth Living
jumped from three to fifteen in less than two months. There was fan
mail that flowed in at a rate of 8,500 letters per week. There were four
times as many requests for tickets than could be fulfilled. Admiral,
the sponsor, paid the production costs in return for a one minute
commercial at the opening of the show and another minute at the close.  In 1952, Sheen won an Emmy Award for his efforts,
accepting the acknowledgment by saying, "I feel it is time I pay
tribute to my four writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John." Time called him "the first 'televangelist'", and the Archdiocese of New York could not meet the demand for tickets.
One of his best-remembered presentations came in February 1953, when he forcefully denounced the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin. Sheen gave a dramatic reading of the burial scene from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, substituting the names of Caesar, Cassius, Mark Antony, and Brutus with those of prominent Soviet leaders Stalin, Lavrenty Beria, Georgy Malenkov, and Andrey Vyshinsky.
He concluded by saying, "Stalin must one day meet his judgment." The
dictator suffered a stroke a few days later and died within a week.
The show ran until 1957,
drawing as many as 30 million people on a weekly basis. In 1958,
Sheen became national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, serving for eight years before being appointed Bishop of Rochester, New York, on October 26, 1966. He also hosted a nationally-syndicated series, The Fulton Sheen Program, from 1961 to 1968 (first in black and white and then in color). The format of this series was essentially the same as Life is Worth Living.
Sheen was credited with helping convert a number of notable figures to the Catholic faith, including agnostic writer Heywood Broun, politician Clare Boothe Luce, automaker Henry Ford II, Communist writer Louis F. Budenz, theatrical designer Jo Mielziner, violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler, and actress Virginia Mayo.
Each conversion process took an average of 25 hours of lessons, and
reportedly more than 95% of his students in private instruction were
While serving in Rochester, he created the Sheen Ecumenical Housing
Foundation, which survives to this day. He also spent some of his energy
on political activities, such as his denunciation of the Vietnam War in late July 1967.
On October 15, 1969, one month after celebrating his 50th anniversary
as a priest, Sheen resigned from his position and was then appointed Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (Wales) by Pope Paul VI.
This ceremonial position allowed Sheen to continue his extensive
writing. Archbishop Sheen wrote 73 books and numerous articles and
On October 2, 1979, two months before Sheen's death, Pope John Paul II visited St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and embraced Sheen, saying, "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church."
The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation was formed in 1998 by
Gregory J. Ladd and Lawrence F. Hickey to make known the life of the
archbishop. The foundation approached Cardinal John O'Connor of the Archdiocese of New York for permission to commence the process of for cause, which was under the authority of the Diocese of Peoria.
In November 2010, it was announced that it was expected that the
Archdiocese of New York would likely take over his cause for
canonization upon an unsettled debate concerning the return of Sheen's
remains to the Diocese of Peoria.
In 2002, Sheen's Cause for Canonization as a saint was officially opened, and so he is now referred to as a "Servant of God".
On February 2, 2008, the archives of Archbishop Sheen were sealed at a ceremony during a special Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois, where the diocese is sponsoring his canonization.
In 2009, the diocesan phase of the investigation came to an end, and the records were sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
at the Vatican in Rome for further investigation by a panel of
prelates, other members, and consultors of the congregation. They will
ultimately give a report and recommendation to the Congregation's
Pro-Prefect, Archbishop Angelo Amato, who will forward his
recommendations with their report to Pope Benedict XVI for a final
decision as to whether he has lived the theological and ecclesiastical
virtues. Then, he would be called "Venerable". If an authentic miracle
were then successfully attributed to him through prayer, he would be
beatified and another would be needed for his canonization. The Vatican
and the Sheen Foundation, as part of their investigation, would like to
see and are currently arranging a coordinated world offering of Masses
for his cause so as to know that enthusiasm for his cause (and thus, his
example) is indeed a global, not just a Western, phenomenon.
A commemorative Mass was held by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Wednesday, December 9, 2009, to mark the
30th anniversary of his death. Cardinals and bishops from around the
world concelebrated the Mass, including Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria.
introduces the re-runs of Sheen's various programs that are aired on
EWTN. Reruns are also aired on Trinity Broadcasting Network. In addition
to his television appearances, Archbishop Sheen can also be heard on Relevant Radio.
God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy (1925, Longmans, Green and Co.)
- The Seven Last Words (1933, The Century Co.)
- Philosophy of Science (1934, Bruce Publishing Co.)
- The Eternal Galilean (1934, Appleton-Century-Crofts)
- Calvary and the Mass (1936, P. J. Kenedy & Sons)
- The Cross and the Beatitudes (1937, P. J. Kenedy & Sons)
- Seven Words of Jesus and Mary (1945, P. J. Kenedy & Sons)
- Communism and the Conscience of the West (1948, Bobbs-Merrill)
- Peace of Soul (1949, McGraw-Hill)
- Three to Get Married (1951, Appleton-Century-Crofts)
- The World's First Love (1952, McGraw-Hill)
- Life Is Worth Living Series 1-5 (1953–1957, McGraw-Hill)
- Way to Happiness (1953, Maco Magazine)
- Way to Inner Peace (1955, Garden City Books)
- Life of Christ (1958, McGraw-Hill)
- Missions and the World Crisis (1963, Bruce Publishing Co.)
- The Power of Love (1965, Simon & Schuster)
- Footprints in a Darkened Forest (1967, Meredith Press)
- Lenten and Easter Inspirations (1967, Maco Ecumenical Books)
- Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen (1980, Doubleday & Co.)
- ^ a b c d e f g "Fulton Sheen Biography and Inspiration". Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
- ^ a b "The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation". Retrieved 2009-09-14.
- ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1634110.html
- ^ http://www.nndb.com/people/448/000166947/
- ^ a b c d e f g h i "Bishop Fulton Sheen: The First "Televangelist"". Time. 1952-04-14. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- ^ Fulton J. Sheen. Treasure in Clay, Ch. 2 "The Molding of the Clay", p. 9, 1980 .
- ^ a b c "About Fulton J. Sheen". Fulton J. Sheen website. Archived from the original on October 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- ^ 
- ^ Archbishop Fulton John Sheen [Catholic-Hierarchy]
- ^ "Radio Religion". Time. January 21, 1946. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- ^ St. Fultie, The Next American Saint? Brennan, Phil, www.newsmax.com, Dec, 14, 2004. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
- ^ Watson, M. A. (1999). And they said Uncle Fultie didn’t have a prayer. Television Quarterly, 30(2), 80-85.
- ^ a b c d Bearden, Michelle (January 24, 2009). "Mass Today Promotes Sheen For Sainthood". Tampa Tribune. p. 10.
- ^ Mikkelson, Barbara and David P. "Stalin for Time: Did Bishop Fulton Sheen foretell the death of Stalin?" Snopes.com, 8 August 2007.
- ^ James H. Willbanks, "Vietnam War Almanac", Facts on File, Inc. (2009), p 215.
- ^ The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Archives accessed 15 August 2007 Archived February 28, 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ 
- ^ This book was Sheen’s response to Rabbi Joshua L. Liebman’s 1946 best-seller Peace of Mind.
Information obtained from Wikipedia.