“Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is the best know and most popular American Priest in the history of the United States”
- a quotation of Monsignor Eugene Clarke of New York who worked with the holy Bishop for many years.
Sheen is recognised by men and women of other faiths as the greatest preacher of the 20th Century.
Born 8th May 1895, El Paso Illinios
Of Irish American parentage of great faith. For education reasons moved to Peroria, Illinios and enrolled at St Mary’s Parish School. Peroria had a population of 100,000 people in 1946.
Ordained 20th September 1919 (aged 24 years)
Ordained at the Cathedral in Peroria after education at St. Viator’s College (also a seminary) and St. Paul’s Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Obtained JCB Catholic University of America, 1920. Left for Louvain University, Belgium September, 1921
Received PhD in 1923, the STD Rome 1924 and Agrege end Philosophie Louvain 1925. He was the first American to receive the Cardinal Mercier Award (given once every 10 years for the best philosophical treatise). At Louvain there were no optional or elective courses. Subjects studied included Metaphysics, Experimental Psychology, Rational Psychology, Cosmology, Aristotle, and Modern Space and Time.
Professor of Dogmatic Theology, St. Edmond's Ware, England, 1925. Philosophy Professor, Catholic University of America, 1926-50
Returning from Europe in 1925, the amazing career of oratory, teaching and preaching began. He was the first to have an ongoing series of religious radio broadcasting. In 1928 invited by Paulist Fathers of New York to broadcast on radio on WLWL.
The first to broadcast on national radio in 1930 on NBC. The Catholic Hour attracted an audience of over 4 million in USA alone. Received as many as 6000 letters a day (about one third non-Catholic).
National Director for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, 1950-66
We believe that no one individual has raised more money for the mission arm of the Church. His efficacy in spiritual and temporal matters is still being felt 40 years after his involvement with the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
'Life is Worth Living' Series, National Television, 1951
In 1951, Sheen was the first to broadcast on national Television. It is from the Life is Worth Living series that we received by Radio Australia our exposure to the great intellect and oratory gifts by which he took people of all stations in life, from man as he is not as we should like to find him, on to the moral and Christian philosophy.
[NOTE: He had visited Australia in 1948 as a Monsignor accompanying Cardinal Spellman where Sheen addressed 25,000 people in St. Mary’s Cathedral. Sydney (another 15,000 heard the sermon through loudspeakers), 50,00 people attended the Showgrounds for a reception and other gatherings that attracted tens of thousands. One hundred thousand heard him speak at the Flemington Racetrack. These addresses were recorded and then broadcast on radio in Australia.]
Appointed Bishop by Pope Pius XII, 1951
By 1956 Bishop Sheen was appearing on 123 ABC television stations in the United Stated alone (not including Canada) and 300 radio stations. Estimated audience of 30 million each week receiving an average of 15-25,000 letters per day. This is not to mention the millions he reached through his written (60 plus books) and newspaper column entitled God Love You.
As he was head of the National Body of the Propagation of the Faith 1950-1966 (and even though the television series was privately sponsored which meant he could have shared in the wealth generated) all of the millions upon millions generated went to the missions throughout the world. The initial fee negotiated for him for the half-hour weekly show was $US26,000 per show.
To quote from Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara STD in his homily to Sheen at his Requiem Mass.
“His love for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith endured in life and in death, and surely you are not surprised that both in life and in death he gave his earthly possession.”
The Holy Hour : ‘The Hour that makes my day.’
Sheen credited his ability to touch hearts and minds to his practice of the Holy Hour that he made every day for sixty two successive years.
Died 9th December 1979 – aged 84 years
This is only a very brief summary and outline of the life of one of the most influential voices of the Church this century. As this society grows in strength the various avenues that will become available to know more of this holy Bishop, priest and prophet of our times will be immense. As on the 2nd October 1979 when Pope John Paul II embraced him and said, “You have written and spoked well of the Lord Jesus, you are a loyal son of the church,” we hope through the working of the Holy Spirit that the Bishop Fulton J. Sheen Society Inc, will help in some small way to continue this great protagonist of Jesus Christ and His Church on Earth.