NEW YORK, DEC. 10, 2009 ( Archbishop Fulton Sheen won an Emmy Award and had an audience of millions for his TV and radio shows, but all he wanted was to go to heaven, and take everybody he could with him.

This was the central message of the homily given by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York at the Mass said Wednesday evening at St. Patrick's Cathedral to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Archbishop Sheen impacted millions on his radio and television programs in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. He hosted a television show called "Life is Worth Living," which reached some 30 million viewers a week. He also beat out TV legends Lucille Ball, Edward Murrow and Arthur Godfrey for an Emmy Award in 1952.

"On Oct. 2, 1979, Pope John Paul II embraced [Archbishop Sheen] and called him 'the preacher to the world' only nine weeks before his death," Archbishop Dolan recalled at the anniversary Mass.

The archbishop then noted the key message of the "world's preacher": "He wanted to get to heaven; he wanted to bring the world with him."

Archbishop Dolan continued: "His pivotal insight, central to revelation, was that Jesus Christ was the way to heaven, the truth about how to get there, the life we hope to share for all eternity.

"For him, this Jesus was alive, still active, still powerful, still teaching, still healing, still leading us to heaven, because, you see, the incarnation was still going on: The Word was still taking flesh; God was still becoming man."

"So this Jesus is as alive in His Church, so faithfully handing-on His teaching, as He was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee," said Archbishop Dolan. "So this Jesus is as tenderly available now in the arms of His Mother Mary, to whom he had such a deep devotion, as He was in the crib of Bethlehem.

"So this Jesus is as present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, before whom He knelt in prayer for an hour every day of His priestly life, as He was at the Last Supper. So this Jesus is as discoverable in the faces of the poor, hungry, and suffering of the world as He was so wretched on the cross.

"So this Jesus is still inviting, [...] 'Come to me, come to me.' Come to me for peace, for meaning, for purpose, for salvation. Come with me forever to heaven!"

Global event

Masses in 50 states and in 35 countries were said Wednesday in honor of the archbishop, who died Dec. 9, 1979. The prelate is buried in the crypt of St. Patrick's, which was opened to the public before and after Mass.

Peter John Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois, in 1895. He soon became known as Fulton, his mother's maiden name. He was ordained a priest of for the Diocese of Peoria in 1919.

Father Sheen studied at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and then at the University of Louvain in Belgium. In 1923, he received the latter university's Cardinal Mercier Prize for International Philosophy as well as attaining the "aggrege" degree with outstanding distinction.

Returning the states, Father Sheen began to teach philosophy at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. It was in 1930 that he began his national radio broadcast -- "The Catholic Hour" -- which continued for more than two decades. At the end of its run, the show reached an estimated four million listeners weekly.

In 1951, he was named auxiliary bishop of New York, and in that same year he began his television program "Life is Worth Living." The show ran successfully through 1957.

In 1966, he was named bishop of Rochester. In 1969, when he retired from that post, he was elevated to the title of archbishop.

Throughout his life, he wrote 72 books, including his autobiography "Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen" (1980), and "Life of Christ" (1958).

Archbishop Sheen's cause for canonization was opened in 2002. If declared a saint, he will be the first TV personality and American-born bishop-saint in the United States.