7/12/12 | 462 views
Archbishop Sheen’s Appeal in New York and the World Over
Catholic New Yorkers had special reason to rejoice when the Vatican announced that two Church leaders who had served so well in the archdiocese during the 20th century had been declared “venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI.
The declaration means the lives of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Mother Mary Angeline McCrory, one of the founders of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, are considered examples of heroic Christian virtue and that both have advanced on the road toward canonization.
Since this issue contains a report on Sister Mary Angeline by Juliann DosSantos, the focus here will be on Archbishop Sheen, the charismatic preacher who was the Manhattan-based national director of the Propagation of the Faith from 1950 to 1966. He was ordained a bishop in 1950 and served as an auxiliary in New York from 1951 to 1966, when he was appointed to head the Diocese of Rochester, which he did until 1969. Archbishop Sheen, who died at age 84 in 1979, is buried in the crypt under the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Of course he was best known as the first televangelist for his Emmy Award-winning service as host of the show “Life Is Worth Living” on the fledgling DuMont Television Network in the 1950s. His weekly audiences of 25 to 30 million viewers in the medium’s early days would be the envy of many programs in today’s fragmented television landscape. He also hosted a nighttime radio show, “The Catholic Hour,” for 20 years before his TV debut and was a prolific and well-regarded author.
The day after the Vatican announcement was made I took part in a press conference over the phone with principals involved in promoting Archbishop Sheen’s cause and others who know his work well.
Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation, which is based in the Diocese of Peoria, Ill., Archbishop Sheen’s home diocese, called the archbishop “a great patron, a great model for those who work in the media in the way he used the tools at his disposal to lead others to Christ.”
Speaking directly to the journalists covering the conference, Msgr. Deptula continued, “And in this media-soaked, media-driven world what a great example [he is] to those of you who work in the media to realize the tremendous value you can play that you are missionaries in a profound way of this new evangelization.”
Two of the other featured speakers were New Yorkers with direct ties to Archbishop Sheen.
One was Father Andrew Small, O.M.I., national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies who is a successor to Archbishop Sheen’s work on behalf of the missions. I asked him what kind of reaction his office in Manhattan had received from around the world since the news had broken the day before.
He spoke about a visiting bishop from India whom he had just snuck away from the conference call to greet. “When I went out to shake his hand, the first thing he told me was, ‘Great news about Fulton Sheen.’ ”
Father Small said his fellow national directors had started to receive the news and were sending him their congratulations since Archbishop Sheen offered “a national direction” for the Propagation of the Faith, as they do today.
The other was Father Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., one of the founders of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the vice-postulator of Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Sheen in 1967. In his homily that day, he recalls, Archbishop Sheen referred to him as his “son in Christ.”
“So, when I pray to him, I call him my father in Christ,” he said.
Considering that Archbishop Sheen may someday become the first American-born priest to be canonized, Father Apostoli feels that his message remains relevant. “So many people tell me they listen to his tapes. They read his books. They say, ‘You know, he could have given that talk yesterday.’ ”
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