Catechists urged to look to example of Archbishop Sheen

By: By Tom Dermody

As they teach the truth of Jesus in parishes, schools, and homes, catechists would do well to look to the example of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, whose cause for sainthood the Diocese of Peoria is promoting.

The way the famed media pioneer carried out a teaching ministry with great love is another reason why “we need a saint like Fulton Sheen today,” said Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR, in the opening keynote address of the 2010 Diocesan Summer Institute.

The June 11-12 gathering of religious educators celebrated Archbishop Sheen, an El Paso native and former priest of the diocese whose preaching and writing skills inspired millions around the world. Father Apostoli, a member of the New York-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, was ordained by Archbishop Sheen in 1967 and now serves as vice-postulator for his canonization cause.

In thanking those who teach the faith “at the grassroots, where the rubber meets the road,” Father Apostoli said they share the same ministry as Archbishop Sheen, who operated on a national and world stage.

Like Archbishop Sheen, they are “carrying on the wonderful mission Jesus gave his apostles” by “communicating the truths of life.” He urged them, as Archbishop Sheen did, to “back up what we are teaching by the example of our lives,” striving to be saints “not through doing great things but through great love.”

“You never know how much you are going to influence someone,” he reminded the catechists.

Father Apostoli, who has produced and appeared on several Catholic radio and television series, offered several stories from Archbishop Sheen’s life during his hour-long presentation. He called Archbishop Sheen “the voice of the Catholic Church in America for 30 years” and noted how he brought tens of thousands into the Catholic faith.

Father Apostoli encouraged wide use in parishes of the new documentary, “Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All,” which was shown at the institute. On the following Sunday, Father Apostoli also showed the film after a Mass at St. Louis Parish in Princeton.

“The only argument the world will accept today is the holiness of our lives,” said Father Apostoli in his keynote talk. He urged the catechists to teach their students how to pray, and to put their faith in action, especially by serving the poor.

“When you discover the joy of loving and giving, you’ll be happy for the rest of your life,” said Father Apostoli.

Meanwhile, as he promotes Archbishop Sheen’s cause for sainthood, Father Apostoli is certain “he’s already happy in heaven. I have no doubt about that.”

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