Two ‘friends of Sheen’ share reactions to his tomb now at St. Mary’s Cathedral

Bonnie Engstrom of St. Patrick Parish in Washington and five of her eight children kneel at the new tomb of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on June 28. The Engstroms' son, James Fulton, now 8, was allegedly miraculously healed by God through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen during a time of crisis at his birth in 2010. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jennifer Willems of The Catholic Post interviewed two key figures in the sainthood cause of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen — Bonnie Engstrom and Msgr. Stanley Deptula — about their reactions to the transfer of his mortal remains to a new tomb at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

Bonnie Engstrom’s story follows. To read Msgr. Deptula’s reaction, click here.

BONNIE ENGSTROM: “I’ve waited years to meet him this way”

On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, her favorite feast day of the year, Bonnie Engstrom knelt in front of the tomb of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria to pray. The visit was years in the making — nearly nine years, in fact.

The Washington woman credits the intercession of Archbishop Sheen in the healing of her son, James Fulton, who was without a pulse for 61 minutes after he was born on Sept. 16, 2010. She has shared the story many times around the country and has written a book about her family’s experience, “61 Minutes to a Miracle,” that will be published in September to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the archbishop’s ordination to the priesthood.

Bonnie Engstrom

Engstrom is very clear that it is Jesus who healed her son, but says she and her husband, Travis, had asked Archbishop Sheen to look after James during her pregnancy and in their moment of crisis “he was the friend who stood in the gap for me.”

“It feels so good to have him here,” Engstrom told The Catholic Post after spending time in prayer with five of her eight children — including James — at the cathedral in Peoria. “I’ve waited years to meet him this way.”

The alleged miraculous healing of her son was explored during a three-month tribunal that was convened on Sept. 7, 2011. The evidence was forwarded to Rome for consideration by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Causes of Saints on Dec. 11 that year.

The medical advisers in Rome approved it in March 2014, and the theological advisers followed suit in June 2014. If it is approved by Pope Francis, the decree for Archbishop Sheen’s beatification could follow quickly.

Engstrom is still asking for the prayers of her special friend.

“That’s what I was sitting there telling him — ‘You’re here and I’m here, and I need you to stick by me and help me. Don’t stop interceding for James,’” she said. “We need his prayers. I feel like we need his prayers just as much now as we did then.”


At a presentation to the St. Thomas the Apostle Women’s Guild in Peoria Heights on July 1, Engstrom said all of their children know what happened because it’s always been talked about.

“It’s part of our ‘normal,’” she explained, adding that James is treated just the same as his four brothers and three sisters.

And it’s the El Paso native’s humble background that she can relate to and appreciate, she said.

“That’s what I was sitting there telling him — ‘You’re here and I’m here, and I need you to stick by me and help me. Don’t stop interceding for James.’” — Bonnie Engstrom

“He loved God and he followed God’s will in his life, and he did great things for the church,” Engstrom told the St. Thomas women and their guests.

“That doesn’t mean I’m going to win an Emmy like Fulton Sheen did,” she said, referring to the media pioneer’s television show, “Life Is Worth Living.”

“I’m not going to write 60 books — I don’t have time for that. But I know it doesn’t matter where I’m from or who I am,” Engstrom said. “God has a plan for me and I can do great things for him. I love that about Fulton Sheen.”

After those present stood and prayed the prayer for the canonization of Archbishop Sheen, she asked them to remember that what she had told them about the alleged miracle was not about her or James or even Archbishop Sheen.

“All of this is about God. It was Jesus Christ who raised my son from the dead. It was Jesus Christ who conquered death in the first place,” Engstrom said. “It’s Jesus Christ and almighty God and the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Trinity, who loves you and who has a plan for the salvation of your soul, and wants to bring us all to everlasting life. All of this is about glorifying God.”

She hoped what she said had brought them closer to Archbishop Sheen, because being closer to him would bring them closer to God.

“He will help you to love the Eucharist more, he will help you to love Mother Mary more, he will help you to love your Catholic faith more, and that’s what I want for all of you,” Engstrom said. “So all glory to God. It’s all about Jesus.”




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