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The Deacon's Bench

I dropped by Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s blog this morning, and he had some wonderful pictures from the installation of Archbishop Dolan. The good cardinal seemed to agree with the assessment that in Dolan, the American Church has another gifted communicator in our midst. Cardinal O’Malley also mentioned that he has became a member of the episcopal board of advisors for the beatification cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

He then offered his own memory of the legendary television star and preacher:

It was my privilege to have known Archbishop Sheen. When I was a child he would visit our parish regularly and I would often serve Mass for him. In those days, of course, the Masses were in Latin and ordinarily there was no preaching during the week — preaching was on Sunday — and then the lessons were in Latin. However, when Archbishop Sheen was at the parish during the week, the church would be standing room only. He would preach every day of the week, which was very, very unusual at the time.

Later on, in 1975, I organized a preaching seminar for the Holy Year at Catholic University, in the Hartke Theater and we had about 600 priests come to it. The two speakers I had invited were Father Avery Dulles and Archbishop Fulton Sheen and, of course, they were both spectacular. Archbishop Sheen, at that time, must have been in his 80s, but he had not changed, he looked like he always did on television and was still playing tennis everyday.

The only thing that shocked me, having not seen him since I was a child, was how short he was! But, he was a huge personality and a very important figure in the history of the United States.

No one did as much to break down prejudice against the Catholic Church as Fulton Sheen. I always say that John F. Kennedy could never have been elected president of the United States had it not been for the television program and radio programs of Archbishop Sheen.

He made thousands of converts during his life by his preaching. Of course, his main job was supporting the missions as head of the Propagation of the Faith. He did an extraordinary job at that.

Archbishop Sheen was a very holy priest, and I think that his role in the history of the Church in the United States was a very important one. It would be wonderful to see him elevated to the altars.

We have a new archbishop in New York who is also a great communicator and we hope that his ministry there will be like Archbishop Sheen’s that attracted so many people to the Church.

Below is a classic bit of the good archbishop, from his TV show “Life is Worth Living”.

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