A memorial Mass for Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen will be held at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, in St. Mary’s Chapel at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas.
Dec. 9 marks the 30th anniversary of Sheen’s death. An alumnus of the St. Paul Seminary, Sheen was a renowned theologian who became known worldwide, and especially in the United States, for his radio and television programs that spanned four decades.
Efforts to have him canonized as a saint officially opened in 2002. Memorial Masses for Sheen also are being held Dec. 9 in all 50 states and in 35 countries on six continents. The largest turnout is expected for the Mass that will be said by Archbishop Timothy Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
All are welcome to join the seminary community for the Mass here in St. Mary’s Chapel, located near the corner of Summit Avenue and Mississippi River Boulevard. Also attending will be members of the Twin Cities chapter of the Cause for Canonization of Archbishop Sheen. For more information about the canonization effort, visit the canonization Web site.
A native of Illinois, Sheen received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from St. Viator’s College in 1916 and 1917. He completed his studies for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary from 1917 to 1919, when he was ordained in Peoria, Ill.
He continued his graduate studies at the Catholic University of America, the University of Louvain and in Rome. He was a member of the Catholic University of America faculty from 1926 to 1950.
Sheen wrote the first of his 73 books in 1925. Five years later he began his NBC radio program, “The Catholic Hour,” which grew to have a weekly listening audience of 4 million listeners. His popular weekly television program, “Life is Worth Living,” drew as many as 30 million viewers and ran from 1951 to 1957. After eight years as national director of the Society for the Propagation of Faith, he returned to television from 1961 to 1968 as host of the nationally syndicated “The Fulton Sheen Program.”
Sheen received an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Television Personality; his programs now are being re-broadcast on both television and radio stations.
According to Sister Mary Christine Athans, author of the 2002 To Work for the Whole People: John Ireland’s Seminary in St. Paul, Sheen wrote in his autobiography: “Bishop Edward Dunne sent me to St. Paul’s Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, to finish my studies for the priesthood. These were the days of World War I; food was meager and I developed an ulcer which required an operation. The courses were extremely good, especially in sacred scripture, history, and moral theology.”
Athans wrote that Sheen “clearly had an impact on American culture as one who educated the United States regarding Catholicism – making it acceptable to be Catholic in the post-World War II era.”
Pope John Paul II visited Sheen in 1979, shortly before his death, and said, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church.”
“Archbishop Fulton Sheen is a powerful model for men preparing for priesthood,” said Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan, rector of the St. Paul Seminary. “Each priest by his office is called to preach, teach and sanctify. Archbishop Sheen made the pulpit the place from which God’s word came alive in the hearts of all who heard him.”