(The following appeared in the February 27, 2000 issue of The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Illinois, and is reprinted here with their permission.)


Sheen foundation collects ‘life virtues’ for sainthood

Vatican researching El Paso native


By Sharon K. Woulfe

Pantagraph staff


EL PASO – Australia, Canada, Ireland. The newly formed Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation is getting encouragement from across the globe. 

         One mailing was simply addressed to The Sheen Foundation, El Paso, Illinois.  “The angels slid it through,” foundation co-founder Gregory Ladd said of that missive.

         The group has gleaned whatever information it could about the El Paso native since The Vatican announced in December a “cause” had been opened to declare Sheen a saint.  The move is “simply a collection of his life’s virtues,” Ladd said.

         The group of more than 400 is collecting letters, diaries and photos, and is especially looking for evidence of miracles or special incidents tied to the work of Sheen, who died in 1979 at age 84.

         So far, the foundation has handled about 200 inquiries – mostly letters, though there are a few phone calls.

         If someone claims a miracle occurred because of Sheen, proving it entails exhaustive investigation by medical professionals including agnostic physicians, Ladd said.  Theologians and other experts also would be involved to see if the occurrence meets the criteria to be considered a miracle. 

         When it comes to miracles, Ladd said, “The Church does not run and jump on the bandwagon.”

         Sheen was born May 8, 1895, in El Paso and lived there until he was 5.  His family moved to Peoria, where he was ordained in 1919 by the Peoria Diocese, which covers more than two dozen counties including McLean.

         He earned a bachelor’s degree in Washington, D.C., in 1920, and advanced degrees in Belgium in 1923 and in Rome in 1924.  He was assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s Church, Peoria, from 1926-1927.

         Sheen became famous worldwide as a spokesman for the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, according to the World Book Encyclopedia.

         In 1930, he started a national radio show, “The Catholic Hour,” which he used to vigorously oppose Communism.  By the early 1950s, he expanded to television through his program “Life is Worth Living,” which brought his message to countries throughout the world.

         His media audience was one-third Catholic, one-third Protestant and one-third Jewish, Ladd said.

         The author of more than 50 books, Sheen was a professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., for about 25 years before resigning to head a New York City-based group supporting Roman Catholic missionaries worldwide.  Sheen was named monsignor in 1934, auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951 and bishop of the diocese of Rochester, N.Y., in 1966.

         He retired in 1969.  During his final years, spent in New York City, he was granted the title of archbishop.

         The volunteers for the foundation are focused not only on the quest for Sheen’s sainthood; they also are collecting memorabilia about his life.

         Treasured donations include a set of four mint-condition 78-rpm records recorded by the bishop in 1949, and a baptismal certificate signed by him in 1921.

         Perhaps the most interesting part of the collection are stories and memories about Sheen collected from people still living.

         Ladd has received four phone calls from Australia about how Sheen somehow sent messages about the church and Christ to a man living behind the Iron Curtain.

         From Dublin, Ireland, the order of Carmelite priests – where the archbishop spoke in August 1971—wrote they were thrilled about the efforts being made to make Sheen a saint. 

         A distant cousin wrote a poem about how Sheen tore down a gate that separated World War I memorials for black and white soldiers in Washington, D. C., during the 1920s.  In the 1930s, he dedicated the Home For Colored Mothers in Mobile, Ala.  His activism for racial equality led to the stoning of Sheen’s car and a cross burning on his lawn in the late 1960s when he lived in Rochester, N.Y.

         The road to official sainthood is not an easy one.  Once documentation is complete, it goes to the Vatican and, if approved, completes the first step.  Further study must provide proof of two miracles associated with Sheen before he can be canonized.

         In December, Kate Kenny, director of communications for the Peoria Diocese, predicted it would take decades for sainthood to become a reality because seeking canonization is such a time-consuming process.  Ladd is hoping Sheen will be canonized by the Pope in three to five years.

         The only native-born American saint is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  Katherine Drexel is soon to be canonized, probably this spring.  She died in 1955 and was born into high society in Philadelphia and used her wealth to help blacks and Indians.

         “It (seeking canonization) is just an overwhelming endeavor,” said Ladd.

         The foundation co-founder also has rights to a documentary and is working on a coffee-table book on Sheen’s life as well as a prayer book with copies of 60 letters Sheen wrote to a woman in a wheelchair.


Source: The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Illinois    February 27, 2000



Organization keeps growing


By Sharon K. Woulfe

Pantagraph Staff


EL PASO – You might say that the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation got off to a rock-solid start. 

         Sheen’s father owned a hardware store in downtown El Paso, and the family had an apartment on the second floor.  El Paso businesswoman Karen Fulte helped get a memorial -- a plaque set in granite – to mark the site of Sheen’s birthplace.

         About two years ago, Fulte contacted Indiana history professor Gregory Ladd after she learned of their mutual admiration for Sheen.  That contact was the beginning of an organization that has garnered several hundred members in the past few weeks after the group went public.

         The 14 directors on the board include two Illinois residents, Fulte and Rev. John J. Myers, bishop of Peoria.  Ladd, a co-founder, lives in Indiana and periodically makes the drive to El Paso.

         The foundation has about 400 members, but the list is growing as people send in membership dues, Ladd said.

         The foundation’s work includes establishing a speaker’s bureau on Sheen’s work and writings, including scheduling seminars with guest speakers, archival material viewings or combined speaker and spiritual retreats.  Those interested can write the foundation at P. O. Box 313, El Paso, IL 61738.  There is no phone listing.

         The group also offers foundation memberships, and those who donate $100 or more will get an 18-by-24-inch poster of Sheen’s coat of arms.  The minimum membership fee is $10.



Source: The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Illinois    February 27, 2000





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