Beloved media personality Archbishop Fulton Sheen is one step closer to beatification after a panel of Vatican theologians unanimously recognized the miraculous recovery of a stillborn baby attributed to Sheen’s intercession.
The Diocese of Peoria said June 17 that its bishop, Daniel Jenky, was informed of the decision by the seven-member theological commission that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
A medical panel advising the congregation had in March unanimously ruled that there is no medical explanation for the baby’s recovery.
The congregation’s cardinals and bishops will now review the case. If they and Pope Francis approve, Archbishop Fulton Sheen could then be beatified.
The miracle involves the unexplained recovery of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy apparently stillborn in September 2010 to Bonnie and Travis Engstrom of the Peoria-area town of Goodfield – Engstrom 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.
Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.
Archbishop Sheen became a popular radio personality in the 1930s, teaching about the Catholic faith. He went on to host the Emmy-award winning television show “Life is Worth Living” and several other television shows, reaching millions of television viewers in the 1950s and 1960s.
He authored many books, whose profits he dedicated to serving foreign missions, health clinics, orphanages and schools.
Archbishop Sheen has roots in the Peoria diocese: he was born in El Paso, 32 miles east of the cathedral city, in 1895.
His family moved to Peoria, and he grew up in the parish of the Cathedral of St. Mary, where he was an altar boy. He was ordained a priest at the cathedral in 1919.
He served as a professor at the Catholic University of America and headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the United States. He was as an auxiliary bishop of New York, and Bishop of Rochester.
He was a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death in 1979 at the age of 84.
Bishop Jenky opened Archbishop Sheen’s cause for sainthood in 2002. In June 2012 Pope Benedict XVI recognized Archbishop Sheen as having heroic virtues, giving him the title “Servant of God.”
The Diocese of Peoria said it is not known when further action on Archbishop Sheen’s cause will be taken.
If Pope Francis approves of his cause, the beatification ceremony for Archbishop Sheen could be celebrated in Peoria.
Another recognized miracle attributed to Sheen would lead to his canonization.