Legal dispute ends; Archbishop Sheen’s remains will be transferred to Peoria

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is pictured preaching in an undated photo. (CNS file photo)

(UPDATED — June 19, 2019)

The mortal remains of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen will soon be coming home to his native Diocese of Peoria.

And that news has diocesan officials anticipating a reopening of the famed orator and media pioneer’s Cause for Beatification, leading to a hoped-for Beatification Mass that would take place in Peoria.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, is “overjoyed and elated” that the New York Court of Appeals on June 7 rejected a final appeal from the Archdiocese of New York and the trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral seeking to keep Archbishop Sheen’s remains interred at St. Patrick’s, where they have rested since after his death on Dec. 9, 1979.

The archdiocese is now working with Joan Sheen Cunningham — Archbishop Sheen’s niece and closest living relative — and the Diocese of Peoria to arrange for a respectful transfer of the remains to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

The transfer will take place “at a suitable time . . . discreetly and respectfully, with minimal ceremony,” according to diocesan officials.


In a June 9 news release, Bishop Jenky thanked all who have worked and prayed for the success of the legal efforts, including Mrs. Cunningham “for her perseverance” through several legal victories and subsequent appeals since first petitioning to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria in 2016.

Bishop Jenky expressed special gratitude to Patricia Gibson, diocesan chancellor and attorney, “who has championed this legal case and the cause of Venerable Archbishop Sheen since its beginning.”

The bishop asked for continued prayers for the advancement of Archbishop Sheen’s beatification cause.

What could happen next was explained to The Catholic Post by Msgr. Jason Gray, who is chairing the diocese’s Cause for Beatification Planning Committee.

“After the mortal remains have moved to Peoria, we will await an announcement that the Cause for Beatification has been reopened and is moving forward,” said Msgr. Gray, who is pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights.

“In Rome, the Congregation of the Causes of Saints will present the alleged miracle to the Holy Father for his decree,” continued Msgr. Gray, referring to the healing of James Fulton Engstrom, now 8, who was born without a heartbeat and did not breathe for more than an hour after his birth. (See related story.) “Following the decree of the miracle, we will await the decree of the Holy Father ordering the beatification.”

The diocese would then work with the Congregation of the Causes of Saints to organize the Beatification Mass. While that date is not yet known, the diocese hopes the ceremony could take place during the 100th year of Archbishop Sheen’s ordination to the priesthood. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Sept. 20, 1919.

The Peoria Diocese opened Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization in 2002. His heroic virtue and life of sanctity were recognized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI, who granted him the title “Venerable.”


Born in the Woodford County community of El Paso on May 8, 1895, Archbishop Sheen and his family moved to Peoria so that Fulton and his brothers could attend St. Mary’s Cathedral Grade School and Spalding Institute.

After ordination and brief priestly ministry in Peoria, he would go on to serve on the faculty of Catholic University of America for nearly 30 years and was national director of the Propagation of the Faith from 1950 to 1966.

He was a pioneer in radio and television, discussing the Catholic faith and moral issues of the day and winning the 1951 Emmy as outstanding television personality for his inspirational program “Life is Worth Living.”

A former auxiliary bishop of the New York Archdiocese, he served as Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969 and spent his final years preaching retreats and missions.

Archbishop Sheen is the author of dozens of books, including his autobiography “Treasure in Clay.”





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