Just days after his remains were transferred to Peoria, Pope Francis and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the 2010 miracle of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, allowing for his beatification in the coming months. This news from the Vatican has reverberated around the world and Central Illinois should take great pride that this is occurring right here in our community.

In September of 2010, Bonnie Engstrom of Peoria watched as professionals at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center tried to revive her stillborn son. For over 60 minutes, she prayed to Fulton Sheen to intercede. Just before being pronounced dead, James Fulton Engstrom’s heart rate jumped and he drew his first breath. Many believed the intercession of Fulton Sheen to be a miracle, and with Pope Francis’ swift blessing, the Cause for Canonization will continue to move forward.

The process for Sheen’s canonization is nearly 20 years in the making. The transfer of Sheen’s remains was a challenging endeavor and was not possible without the hard work of the Archdiocese of Peoria, led by Bishop Jenky, and the family of Fulton Sheen, led by Joan Sheen Cunningham.

Their time, dedication, and efforts paid off and will pave the way for further celebration of his miraculous life with his beatification. Born in El Paso, Illinois, in May of 1895, Fulton Sheen was ordained a priest at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria 100 years ago this year. Although he left Central Illinois to teach after being ordained, Sheen never forgot where he came from and often returned to home. With his final resting place now complete, the eyes of the Catholic faith will now be on Illinois.

Through his work, writings, and television programs, Fulton Sheen reached a global audience and made our world a better place.

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In the classroom, he was beloved by students who he inspired daily. As a missionary, he served those less fortunate. On television, he famously captivated the hearts and minds of viewers as an orator who made Catholics, and others of religious faith, feel God’s divinity.

It is an understatement to say that Sheen’s homecoming and upcoming beatification will leave a profound impact on our community. Sheen was a servant of God who committed his life to serving others through his preaching, his charity missions, and as a devoted teacher and leader in the Catholic Church. His pious example is revered across the Catholic community and his commitment to those he served continues to set an example for those who serve both in religious and in public life today.

As we come upon the 100th anniversary of Fulton Sheen’s ordination, I am hopeful that we can mark his beatification during this time and commemorate his profound legacy, that will hopefully include becoming the first American-born bishop to reach sainthood.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen is finally home, and Central Illinois should take great pride in that. We await the next chapter.

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LaHood, of Dunlap, is 18th District representative, U.S. Congress.


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