Long before Archbishop Fulton Sheen became a pioneer of
televangelism, he was educated by Viatorians at St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, where he graduated in 1917, and was a star debater and class officer.
Now, he is the first student educated by Viatorians in line to be beatified by the Vatican.
It was announced on July 6 that Pope Francis had officially recognized a miracle associated with Sheen, enabling him to be beatified or “blessed” and taking him one step closer to sainthood.
According to a statement from the Diocese of Peoria, Sheen is believed to have interceded when an infant showed no signs of life after being born in 2010. His mother had prayed to Sheen throughout her pregnancy — and for more than a minute after his birth — when he inexplicably came to life.
Sheen was born in the small town of El Paso, Illinois, but the family moved to Peoria when their hardware store and residence above it burned to the ground.
“My brother was not exceptional,” wrote his brother, Joseph Sheen. “He was just another boy.”
Sheen showed great academic promise throughout school, but in his own writings he calls Fr. William Bergin, CSV, his philosophy teacher at St. Viator College, “one of the greatest inspirations of my life,” and he ultimately credits Fr. Bergin with his vocation.
Throughout Sheen’s ministry, he remained loyal to his Viatorian roots. He returned to Spalding Institute — where Viatorians began serving in the 1950s — often to speak at graduation and assemblies, and in 1963, he visited Colegio San Viator, opened that year by the Viatorians in Bogotá, Colombia.
Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV, remembers meeting Sheen when he came to address students at Griffin High School in Springfield, in the early 1960s, when he seemed to fit right in with the rest of the faculty.
“We were all sitting around before the assembly,” Perham recalls, “and we were talking about different Viatorians.”
The Diocese of Peoria said a date for the beatification had not been selected, but in the meantime a memento of Sheen’s affection for the Viatorians can be seen at the cemetery on the grounds of Maternity BVM Church, adjacent to the former St. Viator College campus.
Near the entrance, is a sundial given by the Class of St. Viator College, class of 1917, and engraved are its class officers, including Fulton Sheen.