From Cardinal Seán’s blog

Remembering Archbishop Sheen

On Wednesday, it had been my hope to attend the Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral that Archbishop Dolan was celebrating to mark the 30th anniversary memorial for Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trip.

Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization has been introduced. It was my privilege to have served Mass for him many times when I was a child. He would come to our parish every year because our pastor, Msgr. Charlie McBride, had been his assistant in the Propagation of the Faith, and they were very close friends.

It was always an important event in the life of the parish when Bishop Sheen arrived. The other Masses would be completely empty and it would be standing room only at the Mass he celebrated during the week. There were three daily Masses but the people would all find out which Mass Bishop Sheen was going to say. Bishop Sheen would preach every day, which in those days was not done. As many of you may remember, in the old liturgy, the priests used to preach only on Sundays. So, it was almost like having a mission in the parish every time that he would visit.

He was just such an extraordinary individual, and the work that he did on behalf of the missions as well as evangelization in the United States was astonishing. Thousands of people entered the Church through him. His television program did more to dispel anti-Catholicism than any other effort that the Church has ever been able to muster.

He is certainly a very, very important figure in the history of American Catholicism. He was a man who had such great love for the Church, for the priesthood, and for the missions. He was a man of extraordinary piety and it was my privilege to have had an opportunity to know him personally and now to help in his cause of canonization as a member of the Episcopal Board of Advisors of The Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation, which is the official promoter of the cause.

In 1975, I invited him to speak to the priests in Washington at a seminar I organized on preaching social justice. The two speakers that I got for the seminar where then-Father Avery Dulles and Bishop Sheen. We must have had 500 priests come for it and we filled Harke Theater.

Both of them gave extraordinary talks, but of course, Bishop Sheen had sort of a dramatic way of speaking. The priests must have given him something like a ten-minute standing ovation. That was the last time I saw him alive.

He certainly was a bigger than life figure in the history of the Church in the United States!