Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, drawing the former auxiliary bishop of New York one step nearer to beatification.
The pope authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree at a July 5 audience with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
The date of beatification is not known at this time.
The miracle concerns the healing of James Fulton Engstrom of Washington, Ill., who was considered stillborn when he was delivered during a planned home birth Sept. 16, 2010.
His parents, Bonnie and Travis Engstrom, immediately invoked the prayers of Archbishop Sheen and would encourage others to seek his intercession after the baby was taken to OSF HealthCare St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill., for emergency treatment.
Just as doctors were preparing to declare that he was dead, James Fulton’s tiny heart started to beat at a normal rate for a healthy newborn. He had been without a pulse for 61 minutes.
Despite dire prognoses for his future, including that he would probably be blind and never walk, talk or be able to feed himself, the child has thrived. Now a healthy 8-year-old, he likes chicken nuggets, “Star Wars” and riding his bicycle.
Archbishop Sheen had been placed in a crypt below the main altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral after his death Dec. 9, 1979. After protracted legal proceedings, his remains were brought to Peoria June 27 at the request of his niece, Joan Sheen Cunningham, and now rest in a new marble tomb at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.
In a recent interview with The Catholic Post, Peoria’s diocesan newspaper, Mrs. Engstrom said God had allowed the miracle to happen for his honor and glory.
“I really don’t think it was given to us, for us,” she said. “I think it was given to the Church, for the Church.”
Born in El Paso, Ill., Fulton John Sheen was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Sept. 20, 1919.
After a brief period of priestly ministry in Peoria, the future archbishop went on to serve on the faculty of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., for nearly 30 years.
He began his broadcast career in radio in 1930. In 1952, his renowned television show “Life Is Worth Living” began airing and quickly gained a large audience with many non-Catholics becoming regular viewers. He won an Emmy for outstanding television personality for the show.
He was national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, headquartered in Manhattan, 1950-1966. An auxiliary bishop of New York, 1951-1966, he served as bishop of Rochester, 1966-1969, and was given the personal title of archbishop when he retired from that diocesan post.
He is the author of dozens of books, including his autobiography: “Treasure in Clay.”
In 2012, 10 years after his canonization cause was officially opened, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes had recognized Archbishop Sheen’s life as one of “heroic virtue,” and proclaimed him “Venerable Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen.”
In general, two miracles must be accepted by the Church as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and the other before canonization.
News about the beatification and the life of Archbishop Sheen can be found at CelebrateSheen.com.