A documentary on the life of Archbishop Fulton Sheen is being shown in pre-release screenings across the country, as part of an effort to raise awareness of the late archbishop, whose cause for sainthood is currently underway.
The hour-long documentary, entitled, “Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All,” offers both entertainment and a powerful message of evangelization as it follows the life of the famous archbishop (1895-1979). The video includes the testimonies of dozens of individuals who were touched by the life of the archbishop. It also shows footage from his popular television program, “Life is Worth Living.”
Gaining a reputation as both a scholar and a man of God from a young age, Archbishop Sheen committed to praying a daily Holy Hour before the Eucharist after he was ordained a priest in 1919. It was a practice that he maintained for the remaining 60 years of his life, and it was to this daily Holy Hour that he attributed his success in spreading the Gospel.
By age 30, Archbishop Sheen was a well-recognized Catholic scholar, with degrees from multiple universities in America and Europe. He taught at Catholic University of America, where students would flood his classroom, even sitting on radiators to hear his lectures.
Gaining recognition as a speaker, the archbishop traveled the globe, drawing crowds of up to 10,000 with his charismatic personality and powerful message. “You felt that one of the Apostles was right there in front of you speaking,” said one listener.
In 1930, Archbishop Sheen was asked to take part in a weekly radio broadcast called “The Catholic Hour.” His popularity soared, and shortly after being appointed Auxiliary Bishop of New York in 1951, he began his “Life is Worth Living” television program.
Soon, 30 million Americans were tuning in weekly to see Archbishop Sheen, who presented his message with a charming combination of humor and wit. He was awarded an Emmy after his first season on the air, becoming the only religious broadcaster ever to do so.
Despite his great success in radio and television, the archbishop remained humble and generous. He donated the money from his show, as well as the many contributions he received, to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, of which he had been named director.
Archbishop Sheen spoke at the Second Vatican Council on the role of the Church in caring for the poor and needy of the world. At the council, he also attracted the attention of the future Pope John Paul II, who learned English by listening to his shows.
In the following years, Archbishop Sheen began to lose popularity as he publicly supported civil rights and criticized the Vietnam War. In addition, some people saw him as too traditional after Vatican II.
In 1966, he was appointed Bishop of Rochester, a position which he filled for three years before retiring at the age of 74. For the remainder of his life, he worked vigorously to strengthen and promote the priesthood. His health gradually declined, and he underwent open heart surgery.
Archbishop Sheen passed away on December 9, 1979. His body was found before the Eucharist in his private chapel.
The cause for Archbishop Sheen's beatification and canonization was opened in 2002. The archbishop currently holds the title of Servant of God, while the Church continues to examine his life and works, including the 66 books he wrote during his life.
“Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All” will be released on DVD to the general public during the 2010 holiday season.