The niece of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen is beginning the process to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria.
The New York State Supreme Court last week ruled for a second time in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition to have Sheen’s remains moved from St. Patrick Cathedral in New York to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.
At age 92, Cunningham is Sheen’s oldest living relative.
The move would be the next step in the cause to have Sheen declared a saint. The following step would be a beatification ceremony in Peoria. The Diocese of Peoria says Rome has indicated the ceremony could take place in a next few months pending movement of the remain and approval from the Holy Father.
However, the Archdiocese of New York, in a news release, stated it will review the recent decision with its attorney to determine the next steps to be taken.
The Diocese of Peoria has issued its own news release stating, “If they determine to continue with legal actions, it will be the third time this has been brought to court, despite the court ruling twice in Joan Sheen Cunningham’s favor. Regretfully, if the Archdiocese of New York continues litigation, the cause cannot advance based upon the information provided to the Diocese of Peoria by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.
The Diocese says in 2017 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome established new rules which, in part, states “the cause of sainthood cannot advance until the wishes of the family are respected and litigation is resolved.”
The Diocese of Peoria also takes issue with an Archdiocese of New York statement commending the Diocese for its great service in advancing the cause.
“Despite the appearance of kind sentiment,” the Diocese said, “it falls short of acknowledging that the Archdiocese of New York has done almost nothing in the last fifteen years to assist in the cause’s lengthy, complicated and laborious process. Instead, the Archdiocese of New York has only provided expensive legal resistance during the last two years by refusing to respect the legally supported petition of Joan Sheen Cunningham.”
“New York’s cooperation at this time would end the unnecessary two-year legal dispute, as well as end the unnecessary delay of Beatification,” the Diocese said.
Sheen was born in 1895 and was ordained a priest in Peoria Sept. 20, 1919.
Sheen gained national recognition as a radio and TV evangelist for nearly four decades starting in 1930. Sheen won two Emmys as host of his “Life is Worth Living” program.
Sheen died in 1979 at the age of 84.
Sheen was declared “Venerable” by the Vatican in 2012, recognizing Sheen’s life had “heroic virtue”.
A seven-member theological commission in Rome in June 2014 unanimously agreed a miracle should be attributed to the intercession of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
The miracle involves a stillborn baby born to Bonnie and Travis Engstrom in their Goodfield home in 2010. The baby showed no signs of life for 61 minutes while doctors at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center worked to revive him. The parents prayed for Sheen’s intercession into their child’s health and the baby’s heart started beating. The child, named James Fulton Engstrom, turned seven in September.
A team of Vatican medical experts in 2014 affirmed they could find no natural explanation for the child’s healing.
The case for Sheen’s sainthood was then expected to go to a team of cardinals and bishops in Rome and then to Pope Francis, who could declare Sheen as “Blessed.” That came to a halt when the cause was suspended.
Even after beatification, before Sheen can be declared a saint, a second miracle will need to be proven. Jenky, in a 2014 interview with 1470 & 100.3 WMBD said the Diocese will not be able to use any other miracles it has considered up to now.
“We can’t save some in the back,” Jenky said. “So the next one has to come in at least after it’s announced (Sheen’s) beatified.”