Masses in diocese, around the world requested for Sheen cause on May 8

A grass-roots effort calling on Catholic churches around the world to celebrate a special Mass on the May 8 birthday of the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen could see its goal of 1,000 Masses soon reached.

As of April 13, close to 900 churches had pledged to celebrate a Mass in memory of the Diocese of Peoria native who was an Emmy-winning televangelist and who spread the Gospel message far and wide as head of the Propagation of the Faith from 1950 to 1966.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, encouraged parishes of the Diocese of Peoria to join the effort in a letter sent to all priests on March 30.

“As you know, the work of the cause for the beatification of our diocesan brother, Venerable Fulton Sheen, has been suspended for the past few years as the civil courts hear the petition of Sheen’s family to move his body to Peoria,” wrote Bishop Jenky. “As a manifestation of devotion, faithful from around the world are coming together to request Masses to be offered for the Cause on Sheen’s birthday, May 8, 2017.

“If your parish’s Mass intention schedule will allow,” Bishop Jenky asked the diocese’s priests, “would you kindly offer a Mass in your church that day for ‘the intention of the Sheen cause.’ He also said it would be appropriate to recite the official prayer for Archbishop Sheen’s canonization at Masses that day. The prayer is found at archbishopsheencause.org.

“STORM HEAVEN” WITH PRAYERS

Lo Anne Mayer, a New Jersey Catholic, is one of those who launched the Mass effort in January. She knew and greatly admired Archbishop Sheen.

Mayer told Catholic News Service the idea for the Masses is to not only celebrate the archbishop’s life, ministry and legacy but also to “storm heaven” with prayers for his canonization.

She felt he was a saint the first time she met him. When he spent time with her and her husband and their six children, she observed his gentle manner with the children and how he spoke to them about Jesus and his sacrificial love — all of which convinced her even more he was a saint.

He was “so clear about God’s love for us,” said Mayer.

Archbishop Sheen, who won the 1951 Emmy for outstanding television personality for his show “Life Is Worth Living,” was born in El Paso, Illinois, on May 8, 1885, and grew up in Peoria. He was ordained a priest for the Peoria Diocese on Sept. 20, 1919.

He was an auxiliary bishop of New York. After his nearly 30 years as national director of the Propagation of the Faith, he was bishop of Rochester, New York, from 1966 to 1969 and given the personal title of archbishop when he retired. Archbishop Sheen died Dec. 9, 1979.

His cause for canonization was officially opened by the Diocese of Peoria. Archbishop Sheen’s heroic virtue and life of sanctity were recognized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI, who granted him the title “Venerable.”

In his letter to priests, Bishop Jenky noted that, like others, he gets discouraged by the “legal entanglements” the Sheen cause is experiencing, but adds that “I believe in the power of prayer.”

“Fulton Sheen was a zealous priest of our Local church, an inspiration to millions around the world, and is a powerful intercessor,” wrote Bishop Jenky. “Begging his prayers and those of the Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue, may God who has begun this good work bring it to completion.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Portions of this story were supplied by Catholic News Service.

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