Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois, and grew up in nearby Peoria.
He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria in 1919, and was made auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of New York in 1951 and bishop of Rochester in 1966.
But Sheen is best known for his evangelization work through the media.
He hosted , a television program for which he won an Emmy Award, from 1951 to 1957.
CWR: What was your relationship to Archbishop Fulton Sheen? ” He’d answer, “I can’t take the chance.” He had a great love for the poor.
Joan Sheen Cunningham: My father, Joseph Sheen (1899-1956), was the younger brother of Fulton Sheen. I was born into a family of eight in Peoria, Illinois. When I was age 10, he sent me to New York to go to school, under the care of my uncle, Fulton Sheen. When he served as national director for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith (1950-66), he visited the missions in Africa, and was distressed by the poverty he saw.
There were four Sheen brothers; Fulton was the oldest, and my father the second oldest. He’d say, “Oh, if you could see the poor souls there.” As much as he loved teaching, I think the highlight of his career was being director of the Society, so he could help those people and the missionaries who served them.
When he was made bishop of Rochester, he would regularly go to the homes of poor people to celebrate Mass.
He also authored more than 70 books on theology, philosophy, spirituality, marriage, the priesthood, and current events, and he helped convert a number of notable personalities to the Faith. He even went to the supermarket and bought food for my refrigerator. He’d always take an interest in whoever walked up, taking the time to greet them.Someone who knew Sheen well and hopes to live to see his beatification is his niece Joan Sheen Cunningham of Yonkers, New York, age 85. Sometimes, he took me ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Sometimes we’d visit his priest-friends at church rectories. He baptized my three children and gave them their first Communion. CWR: Since he was a celebrity, did people come up to him frequently on the street? He always welcomed them, and was never short with anyone.Pope Benedict XVI declared Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) “venerable” on June 28, and the Illinois-native could soon become the first male American-born saint.A few generations back he was the face of the Catholic Church in America for many, employing his strong speaking ability, personal piety and learning, and modern media to win many converts to the Catholic faith.
Seventy-five years ago Joan left her midwestern family and came to New York to attend school under the guardianship of her uncle. He’d take me to the store and pick out dresses for me. He was just my uncle back then, it didn’t dawn on me until later that he was a celebrity.
She recently shared her memories of Archbishop Sheen with . Since he was known for his generosity, people would often come up to ask him for money, telling him how they were down on their luck. I’d ask him, “How do you know that they’re not putting you on; that they really need help?