FULTON J SHEEN: AN AMERICAN CATHOLIC RESPONSE TO 20TH CENTURY
On September 9, 2002, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, of the Diocese of Peoria, announced that the Vatican had accepted his petition to open the cause for the canonization of Fulton J. Sheen, an initiative which was begun in the year 2000 when John Cardinal O’Connor of New York approved a preliminary effort to advance the case for having “the greatest preacher and evangelist of the 20th century in the United States” be declared a saint. The cause for his canonization, according to Bishop Jenky, is based on Sheen’s personal sanctity and his reputation as a major figure in the history of American Catholicism. For 60 years ¾ from his ordination in 1919 to his death in 1979 ¾ Sheen spent his life working out a “Christian response to the challenge of the times.” As Thomistic philosopher and professor at the Catholic University of America, prolific writer, pioneer of the electronic gospel on radio and TV, convert-maker, head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and Bishop of Rochester in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, he lived in the religious spotlight for most of his life. His personal odyssey mirrored that of the Catholic Church in facing the challenges of the times: two world wars, national and international depression, fascism, nazism, communism, capitalism, the sexual revolution and the upheaval following the Council. An “American son born in our American heartland,” as Bishop Jenky called him, Sheen may one day enjoy the additional distinction of being the first American-born male saint. This thoroughly documented study was penned as a doctoral dissertation in 1988. All subsequent works have built on its scholarly and balanced insights.
About the Author: Kathleen Riley, a native of Lockport, New York, is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Dominican University. She received her B.A. from Nazareth College of Rochester, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. She teaches a variety of courses in both the History and Humanities Programs at Ohio Dominican, including a course on American Religious History which focuses on Fulton Sheen as a major figure in the Post World War II Religious Revival in the United States. Returning to her native western New York roots during the summer months, she offers the course in American Religion at Canisius College in Buffalo as well, and is currently working on a book about her hometown: “Lockport: Historic Jewel of the Erie Canal”.
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