An American televangelist who may be a saint

Shortly after Pope John Paul II embraced him at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1979 as a loyal son of the Church who "had written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus," Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the most prominent Catholic evangelist in our country's history, died. His cause of beatification and canonization is now awaiting decision at the Vatican.

Born in 1895 in El Paso, Illinois, his family soon moved to Peoria, where he went to high-school. After ordination to the priesthood in 1919, he obtained advanced degrees in philosophy and became a philosophy professor at Catholic University in Washington from 1926 to 1950.

A pioneer in broadcasting, he was a regular speaker on NBC's "Catholic Hour" radio broadcast beginning in 1930. In 1940 Bishop Sheen presided over the first-ever telecast of a religious service. In the 1950s he would become famous for a television show, "Life is Worth Living," which ran on ABC and reached an estimated 30,000,000 each week. In 1952 he received an Emmy as television's "Most Outstanding Personality." At one point his show was the most popular on television.

He brought many converts into the Church, including prominent individuals like Clare Boothe Luce, Congresswoman (and wife of Time-Life founder Henry Luce); the journalist Heywood Broun; and Louis Budenz, editor of the Communist "Daily Worker." Of course, not everyone was a big shot. His converts included "housekeepers, flight attendants, ministers, beggars at the door, housewives, alcoholics and college students," as he recalls in his autobiography "Treasure in Clay."

He was national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, appointed by Pope Pius XII in 1950, a position he occupied for 16 years under three popes. He was responsible for two-thirds of the mission funds of the Society collected from around the world. He was appointed to Vatican II's Commission on the Missions, the only American member.

Named bishop of Rochester, New York in 1966, he retired in 1969, when he was named titular Archbishop by Pope Paul VI. He spent the 10 remaining years of his life speaking and preaching retreats, particularly to clergy and religious.

His cause of beatification and canonization was formally opened in Peoria on Sept. 9, 2002. The investigative stage was concluded there in 2008, and all the evidence forwarded to Rome for the decision-making stage. Three volumes comprise the "Positio," or legal brief, arguing that Archbishop Sheen exhibited heroic virtue in his life. In addition, testimony has been taken regarding two alleged miracles due to his intercession, one in Peoria and one in Pittsburgh. In order to be beatified, the Holy Father must approve a decree of heroic virtue, making him "venerable," as well as one miracle due to his intercessory power. An additional fresh miracle would then be needed for him to be declared a saint.

For over 60 years, he spent a Holy Hour every day, praying before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He earned $26,000 every week from his television show, and he gave it to the missions for hospitals and schools around the world. He was deeply devoted to our Blessed Mother, celebrating Mass every Saturday in her honor and confident that when he stood before God at the final Judgment, Jesus would say, "I heard My Mother speak of you."

There is a compelling new one-hour documentary entitled "Servant of All" about Archbishop Sheen. It had its broadcast debut this past Easter Sunday on Chicago public television station WTTW. A two-minute promotional trailer is available online at, along with more information. Hopefully, it will be available for viewing in Massachusetts in the near future. At a time when the media is full of reports of priests and bishops who have sinned grievously, it is nice to be reminded of the saintly priests and bishops among us.

Dwight G. Duncan is professor at UMass School of Law Dartmouth. He holds degrees in both civil and canon law.

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...