The whole world got to see Bishop Fulton Sheen on their televisions and hear him on their radios, but what was he like when he wasn’t in the public eye? His closest living relative and niece, Joan Sheen Cunningham, writes in her book, MY UNCLE FULTON SHEEN, a compelling story of how he became her second father and reveals both amusing and serious attributes about Sheen that only more deeply show his path to sainthood is well-deserved.
Sheen was to be beautified in Peoria, Illinois, on Dec. 21, 2019, but the US Conference of Catholic Bishops postponed it on Dec. 2, for the request of Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester, due to concerns that Sheen could be cited in the New York attorney general’s ongoing investigation into whether any of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses had covered up acts or allegations of clerical sexual abuse.
The Bishops Conference issued the following statement when the postponement was announced: “In our current climate, it is important for the faithful to know that there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against Sheen involving the abuse of a minor. … At no time has his life of virtue ever been called into question. ”
Cunningham is the daughter of one of Fulton Sheen’s brothers and began her incredible journey with her uncle when he suggested she leave Illinois and enroll in a private school in New York City, where he was living. She did and thus started her weekly outings with her uncle, which included not only Mass and confession but also dinners with Hollywood stars and influential politicians.
In MY UNCLE FULTON SHEEN, Cunningham relays the fact that Sheen treated everyone the same, no matter their station in life or how wealthy or poor they were, that he gave away so many of the material possessions bestowed upon him, and that he suffered quietly in pursuit of holiness and obedience. She also reveals how he helped her in her courtship with her husband and found places for her family to live – she returned the favor when he moved back to New York City near the end of his life.
“This book should be essential reading for anyone interested in the life and heroic Christian witness of Fulton Sheen,” said Most Reverend Daniel Jenky, Bishop of Peoria, Illinois. “Reading Joan’s fascinating account of her beloved uncle’s story gives a richly human context to the inspiring life of this good, gifted and holy man.”