PEORIA, Ill. — Early this morning June 27, the body of Archbishop Fulton Sheen reached the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, and the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, where he will be interred in a shrine prepared and waiting for him.

Earlier this same morning, the remains were disinterred from the crypt under St. Patrick Cathedral’s main altar in New York as Venerable Sheen’s niece, Joan Sheen Cunningham, and Patricia Gibson, chancellor and attorney for the Peoria Diocese, were present. Joining them were funeral home and cemetery personnel.

The body was then taken to LaGuardia Airport for a flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and then on to Peoria.

According to a press release, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky announced that the cause for beatification had resumed. The process had been stalled during a lengthy three-year legal litigation, waiting for courts to decide where the body of the internationally known prelate would be permanently interred.

On June 7, the final appeal by the Archdiocese of New York was rejected yet again by the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. With that definitive ruling, the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria cooperated in making arrangement for the transfer of the earthly remains to take place as soon as possible, following Church and civil law requirements.

The transfer was done without fanfare and quietly because, as the Peoria Diocese explained, “Church law requires that the transfer of the remains of one considered for beatification must to be done without any solemnity. As a result, the transfer could not be publicized in advance.”

Because “no liturgical ceremony or public gathering could be held during the transfer,” the entire procedure “was done without prior public notice.”


Once in Peoria

At the cathedral where Venerable Sheen — a well-loved TV and radio presence and prolific author —  grew up praying as a child and where he was ordained a priest, his body will be “encased into a marble monument.” By the weekend, people will be able to visit and pray before his new tomb at the side altar dedicated to the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Learning of the transfer, Father Stanley Smolsnski, co-founder and director of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina/Our Lady of Joyful Hope, said, “It is appropriate that his shrine will be at the altar of Our Lady since his episcopal motto makes reference to her. Taken from the Sorrowful Mother hymn, Stabat Mater Dolorosa, it states, Da per matrem me venire — ‘Let me come through your mother.’”

The Peoria Diocese’s Gibson was one of the official witnesses “required by the Vatican and Church law” present during the transfer of Archbishop Sheen’s body from New York’s cathedral to Peoria’s cathedral.

“After working 18 years with Bishop Jenky on the cause for beatification, it was a great privilege and honor to be present and witness the transfer of Archbishop Sheen’s remains to his home cathedral in Peoria where he served Mass as a youth and was ordained a priest 100 years ago,” Gibson said in an official statement. “Now that the three years of legal litigation has ended, I am grateful that the Archdiocese of New York cooperated with this transfer. I am excited for the next steps in the cause and pray that a beatification will happen very soon.”

The Archdiocese of New York told the Register, “We look forward to the Diocese of Peoria proceeding with the cause of beatification and canonization of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.”


Next Step Immediately Starts

Once his body reached Peoria, the cause for Fulton Sheen’s beatification immediately picked up where it left off. Bishop Jenky has already notified the Vatican about the transfer and that all legal proceedings have been resolved. According to the statement from the Peoria Diocese, “The Vatican has confirmed that the cause for beatification has now resumed.”

The next step is for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome to present the alleged miracle accredited to Archbishop Sheen to Pope Francis for his decree accepting it as authentic.

The healing of a newborn infant has already been unanimously approved as a miracle twice, first in March 2014 by a team of medical advisers to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and then in June 2014 by a team of theologians. The child had no vital signs for over an hour and was believed dead by several doctors before allegedly being brought back to life.

After the Holy Father issues a decree accepting this miracle for beatification, he would also then issue another decree calling for Venerable Sheen’s beatification. Once this takes place, the Peoria Diocese and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will work together to organize the beatification celebration in Peoria.

The official diocesan statement explains, “According to the current practice of the Vatican, a beatification is celebrated in the local diocese where the cause was instructed. Once the date for the beatification is granted by Pope Francis, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, would come to Peoria to preside at the ceremony.”

Bishop Jenky prays and hopes that these decrees from Rome will be issued soon.

Since this year also marks the 100th anniversary of Fulton Sheen’s ordination to the priesthood in Peoria, one of Bishop Jenky’s aims is that Archbishop Sheen — whose lifetime of work was personally approved by St. John Paul II — will be beatified during this major anniversary year.

The faithful are encouraged to keep up their prayers for the beatification. Bishop Jenky invites the faithful to come to the new tomb at the Peoria cathedral to offer their prayers..

Viewing of the tomb this weekend will be Friday, June 28, from 2pm to 4pm; Saturday, June 29, from 10am to 2pm; and Sunday, June 30, from 9am to 2pm.


Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.