Mass at CSE to Reflect on Beatification
The Mass, in support of Archbishop Sheen's beatification, is expected to draw faithful from throughout the nation, Garden State and New York. The venue for the Dec. 9 Mass is historically significant. Years ago, as a young priest, Father Sheen preached the homily at a graduation Mass for CSE.
The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation is headquartered in Peoria, IL. Archbishop Sheen was ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Peoria on Sept. 20, 1919. Born in El Paso, IL, he died on Dec. 9, 1979 at the age of 85. During his long, noteworthy ministry Archbishop Sheen penned more than 70 books, was a scholar and university professor, and became an iconic figure in the Catholic Church through his popular television program during the 1950s.
Archbishop John J. Myers, who came to the Archdiocese of Newark in 2001 from the Diocese of Peoria, has strong personal and spiritual ties to Archbishop Sheen. "There are so many reasons why I support the cause for sainthood for Archbishop Sheen, and the fact that we share a kinship as priests ordained for the Diocese of Peoria is only one of them," Archbishop Myers said, commenting on the upcoming Mass and cause for Archbishop Sheen's beatification.
"This man undoubtedly was one of the greatest evangelists of our age or any age," Archbishop Myers continued. "He brought the truth of Christ's Gospel to millions in his books, his television and radio programs and his work with the Propagation of the Faith. His words still inspire us to live a life worth living in service to Christ and His Church."
The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation was established a decade ago. It was the foundation that first approached John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York at the time, for permission to begin the cause of canonization for Archbishop Sheen.
According to the foundation's Web site (www.archbishopsheencause.org) Edward Cardinal Egan-Cardinal O'Connor's successor and the archbishop of New York-gave permission to approach the Bishop of Peoria regarding the possibility of opening Archbishop Sheen's cause. On April 15 of this year, the "Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of Archbishop Sheen" officially opened in Rome at a ceremony in the offices of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
If the congregation makes a declaration that Archbishop Sheen lived a life of "heroic virtue," he will be accorded the title "venerable." The next step is beatification after which he would be called "blessed." Certification of a miracle attributed to his intercession is required for beatification.
Family was especially important to Archbishop Sheen. Among his many family members was his niece, Jean Sheen Cunningham, who said the cause for her uncle's beatification is "coming along nicely."
Archbishop Sheen was, Cunningham recalled fondly, a holy man. Describing him as someone who accepted life as it came along and always moved on, she said the Catholic Church "was everything to him." Archbishop Sheen, his niece added, prayed the Holy Hour every day of his life. She said the spiritual message that made him a national and international figure on radio and television appealed to people of all faiths. He had for example, she noted, "many Jewish friends who were close to him."
Deacon and Dr. Francis P. McQuade, professor emeritus at Seton Hall Law School where he taught state and local government for four decades, was appointed president of the Fulton Sheen Advisory Council by Bishop Daniel J. Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria in September. Deacon McQuade also was among Archbishop Sheen's last students at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. where McQuade received a Ph.D. in philosophy.
Deacon McQuade, a Knight of Malta and parishioner at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in South Orange who served for two decades as a delegate to the United Nations for the Holy See Mission's Legal Committee, described Archbishop Sheen as a "marvelous teacher" and very popular. "Everyone tried to get into his class-even those who did not sign up for his class," he said. The archbishop, Deacon McQuade remarked, never used the words "Protestant" or "non-Catholic."
Archbishop Sheen supervised McQuade's doctoral dissertation. "It was a pleasure to go to his house," he recalled with a smile. Citing his "excellent" teaching style, Deacon McQuade noted that Archbishop Sheen had a gift for nurturing his students' thinking process. He also said Archbishop Sheen was an extremely hard worker with a tremendous sense of humor.
As a beloved teacher, Archbishop Sheen had a profound impact on Deacon McQuade's spiritual and professional life. "He was a very kind man who always had time for his students despite the fact he always quite busy," he said.
Archbishop Sheen was known for tearing up his notes at the end of the school year with the explanation that they should not be used year after year, Deacon McQuade recalled with a chuckle. He was, Deacon McQuade went on, the same person in the classroom that became well known to millions on radio and television.
"I am so happy that Bishop Serratelli has invited the Sheen Foundation into the diocese to celebrate this anniversary Mass. God sent Fulton Sheen from Peoria to the East Coast to serve as a great teacher, an influential preacher and as a holy bishop," Bishop Jenky, who will concelebrate the Mass, commented.
"Archbishop Sheen played such an important role in the faith formation of so many generations of Americans and continues that work even today through his books, talks and television reruns," he said. "We are honored to have Bishop Serratelli as the main celebrant of the Mass and to have Father Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., as the homilist. As the Bishop of Peoria, I am excited to follow in the footsteps of Fulton Sheen."