With a small group of witnesses looking on, the mortal remains of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen were interred at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Ill., late in the afternoon of June 27, completing a transfer from St. Patrick’s Cathedral that began early that morning.
Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky was present as the casket arrived by hearse at the cathedral where Archbishop Sheen was ordained a priest nearly a century ago. The bishop blessed with holy water a container holding the casket as it was carried up the cathedral steps by nine seminarians and again after it was placed in a new tomb at a side altar dedicated to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Earlier in the day, Bishop Jenky announced that the sainthood cause for the famed preacher, media pioneer, author and missionary had resumed after being suspended for five years pending the resolution of a legal dispute over the location of Archbishop Sheen’s remains.
The Diocese of Peoria opened Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization in 2002. His heroic virtue and life of sanctity were recognized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI, who granted him the title Venerable.
Since his death Dec. 9, 1979, at age 84, Archbishop Sheen had been interred in a crypt under the main altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Diocese of Peoria officials hope Pope Francis will soon receive evidence of an alleged miracle attributed to Archbishop Sheen’s intercession. Already approved by medical experts and theological advisers to the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, it involves the healing in 2010 of a newborn infant who was without vital signs for more than 60 minutes. Authentication of the miracle by Pope Francis could lead him to call for Archbishop Sheen’s beatification.
Present at both the disinterment of her uncle’s remains in New York and their arrival at the cathedral in Peoria was Joan Sheen Cunningham, Archbishop Sheen’s closest living relative who petitioned the New York court system for the transfer in 2016.
Efforts by the New York Archdiocese and the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to block the transfer ended when the New York Court of Appeals rejected their final appeal June 7. The archdiocese cooperated with the Diocese of Peoria in ensuring the transfer followed both civil law and Church law. Among the Church law requirements was that the transfer be done without any solemnity.
Born in El Paso, Ill., and raised in Peoria, Archbishop Sheen gained fame and influence with radio and early television series such as the “Catholic Hour” and “Life is Worth Living” that reached millions.
From 1950 to 1966, he served as national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Ordained a bishop in 1951, he served as an auxiliary bishop of New York and from 1966 to 1969 as bishop of Rochester. —CNS