About Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Archbishop Sheen, best known for his popularly televised and syndicated television program, Life is Worth Living, is held today as one of Catholicism’s most widely recognized figures of the twentieth century.
Fulton John Sheen, born May 8, 1895 in El Paso, Illinois was raised and educated in the Roman Catholic faith. Over the course of many dedicated, steadfast years, he was ordained a priest of the diocese of Peoria at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, IL on Sept 20, 1919.
Following his ordination, Sheen moved overseas to further his education, and earned a doctorate in Philosophy from The Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium in 1923. That same year, he received the Cardinal Mercier Prize for International Philosophy, becoming the first ever American to earn this distinction.
Upon returning to America after varied and extensive work throughout Europe, Sheen continued to preach, as well as teach theology and philosophy at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.
Starting in 1930, after just eleven years of priesthood, Sheen hosted a weekly Sunday night radio broadcast called The Catholic Hour. This broadcast captured many devoted listeners, reportedly drawing an audience of four million people every week for two decades.
In 1951, Sheen was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdioceses of New York. That same year, Sheen moved from his weekly radio broadcast to hosting the Catholic television program, Life is Worth Living. This unpaid, unscripted show aired every Tuesday evening at 8pm for six years. In the beginning stages of the show, only three television stations originally broadcast it. However, that number jumped to fifteen in less than two months after Life and Time magazine ran a feature story on Sheen. The magazine piece caused Sheen’s popularity to blossom. He began receiving fan mail at a rate of 8,500 letters per week and juggling four times as many ticket requests that could be fulfilled. He even became the first to conduct a religious service ever broadcast on TV.
Over the course of the show, Sheen’s Life is Worth Living competed for airtime with popular television stars such as Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle. Sheen's show held its own, and in 1952, just one year after it’s debut, he won an Emmy Award for "Most Outstanding Television Personality." Fulton Sheen credited the Gospel writers - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - for their valuable contribution to his success. This television show ran until 1957, boasting as many as 30 million weekly viewers.
In the fall of 1966, Sheen moved upstate, where he was appointed Bishop of Rochester, New York. During this time, Bishop Sheen hosted another television series, The Fulton Sheen Program, running from 1961 to 1968 that closely modeled the Life is Worth Living series.
After nearly three years as Bishop of Rochester, Fulton Sheen resigned and was appointed the Archbishop of Titular See of Newport Wales by Pope Paul VI. This new appointment allowed Sheen the flexibility to continue preaching.
In 1979 Fulton John Sheen received his greatest accolade when Pope John Paul II embraced him at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The Holy Father said to him, "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church." With that last acknowledgment, Fulton Sheen passed into eternal life just two months later on December 9, 1979.
His contributions to the Catholic Church are numerous and varied, ranging from educating in classrooms, churches, and homes, to preaching over a nationally publicized radio show, and two television programs, as well as penning over 50 written works. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen had a gift for communicating the Word of God in the most pure, simple way. His strong background in philosophy helped him to relate to all of his followers in a highly personalized manner. His timeless messages continue to have great relevance today. He inspires each of us to live a God-centered life with the joy and love that God intended.
On September 14, 2002, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints officially opened the Cause of Archbishop Sheen and granted him the title "Servant of God." An effort is underway to have the Archbishop canonized.