Today is the 37th Anniversary of the passing of Fulton J. Sheen. He was an American Roman Catholic prelate known for his preaching and his work on television and radio. Fulton J. Sheen was born on May 8,1895 in El Paso, Illinois as Peter John Sheen. His family later moved to Peoria, Illinois where he served as an altar boy at St. Mary’s Church. On September 20,1919, he was ordained a priest. He served time for a while in London. In 1926, Bishop Edmund Dunne of Peoria, Illinois asked Sheen to take over St. Patrick’s Church. In 1930, he began his preaching career with The Catholic Hour which was broadcasted Sunday weekly. During World War II, he addressed on his radio show that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was an example of the “Anti-Christ”.
His radio show lasted until 1950 and in 1951, with the advent of television he began his first show which ran from 1951 to 1957, called Life is Worth Living. That same year he was consecrated as an Auxiliary Bishop for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York under Francis Cardinal Spellman. During the height of his evangelization career he was instrumental in bringing many famous figures into the Catholic faith: Heywood Broun (an agnostic writer), Clare Booth Luce (a politician and wife of magazine magnate Henry Luce), Henry Ford II (an automaker and grandson of Henry Ford), Louis F. Budenz (an-communist turned anti-communist activist), Jo Mielziner (theatrical designer), Fritz Kreisler (violinist and composer), Virginia Mayo (actress), and Bella Dodd (an ex-communist turned anti-communist). He was also staunchly anti-Communist, in February 1953, a few days before Communist leader Joseph Stalin died, he gave a dramatic reading of the burial scene from Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser substituting the names of prominent Soviet leaders Stalin, Lavrenty Beria, Georgy Malenkov, and Andrey Vyshinsky for the original Caesar, Cassius, Marc Antony, and Brutus. He concluded by saying, “Stalin must one day meet his judgment.” The dictator suffered a stroke a few days later and died within a week. In the 1950s, he had a falling out with Cardinal Spellman in a dispute and in 1957, Sheen resigned his television show. In 1966, Cardinal Spellman had him reassigned to the Diocese of Rochester, New York. On December 2,1967, Cardinal Spellman died.
Despite the dispute, Sheen always praised Spellman. In 1961, he came back on the air with The Fulton Sheen Program which lasted till 1968. In 1969, he resigned his position as Bishop of Rochester, New York. He was also strongly opposed abortion, he denounced the January 22,1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion in the United States. In response he wrote a little prayer invoking the intercession of the Holy Family, he pleaded for divine protection over unborn babies in danger of being aborted. Sheen continued to write books, numerous articles, and columns. On October 2,1979, two months before he died, Pope John Paul II visited him at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and embraced Sheen, saying, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church.
On December 9,1979, Fulton J. Sheen passed away at the age of 84 of heart disease. His up for Beatification in the Catholic Church.