The miracle that propelled Archbishop Fulton Sheen towards Sainthood

The miracle that propelled Archbishop Fulton Sheen towards Sainthood

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

If you were a Catholic (and not so Catholic) kid growing up in the late 50’s and 60’s, there was another rock-star besides Elvis Presley dominating the pop culture landscape of the day. His name was Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a handsome, charismatic Catholic priest (later Archbishop) who captivated both TV and radio audiences around the country with his eloquently skilled homilies of the gospel.

Dressed in full priestly regalia, he would usually begin his sermons reading from scripture, pausing moments later, to explain to his viewing audience the meaning of what he had just read, with charm, wit, grace, and above all humor.

On December 9th, 1979, 84-year old Archbishop Sheen passed away peacefully in New York City and placed below a crypt under the main altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

And that’s where most tales end of famous and renowned individuals, with perhaps a made-for-TV public funeral and eulogies in honor of the deceased.

However, like all Hollywood and legendary figures that have passed on in life, their movies on film live on long after their mortal remains are interred.

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And so it was with Bonnie Engstrom, a Peoria, IL resident who had discovered vintage video footage of Archbishop Sheen’s mesmerizing sermons, and instantly became a fan. A devout Christian, Bonnie embraced Sheen within her life and began praying to him.  Although he wasn’t a saint, she found his words and his presence comforting.

I remember Travis and I were watching YouTube videos of Bishop Sheen preaching and there’s old footage of him on a television game show,” Bonnie said. “We were so impressed. He’s funny, he’s smart, and he’s just so approachable and warm. We were just so engaged with him.”

I started asking, basically on a daily basis, for Fulton Sheen’s prayers, for his intercession in the life of my child and in our marriage, to walk with us and to walk with my son, that he would be a lifelong Catholic who would love God and love his faith, that he would be a man of integrity,” Bonnie said. “I was asking him to intercede every day while I was pregnant.”

Then on September 16th, 2010, a joyous occasion suddenly became a life and death struggle. Bennie’s new born son, during the final stages of labor, formed a rare, true knot  in the umbilical cord.  It was tightening, cutting off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. Within moment’s the child turned blue.

The home delivery which had been a smooth and effortless pregnancy had suddenly become a nightmare as Bonnie watched her lifeless infant son born with no heartbeat.

Emergency medics and doctors rushed the tiny infant to the hospital, about 20 minutes away. At the hospital, Dr. Juanita Corrales attempted to revive the child.  He knew that every minute counted in saving the child’s life, and if he did, he concluded there would be extensive long-term damage if he survived.

Although I want babies to survive, I want to consider the quality of life,” she says. After about 10 minutes of medical treatment she was ready to announce his death.  The infant had spent 61 minutes without a heartbeat but his parents were still praying for a miracle to happen.

However, unbeknown to Dr. Corrales and the entire emergency medical team on that horrific day, Bonnie Engstrom, was praying to Archbishop Sheen to intervene.

I remember sitting on my bedroom floor and watching them do CPR and in my head repeating over and over and over again, ‘Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen,'” Bonnie said. “I really think it was the Holy Spirit giving me the words I needed to say in that moment, because I had no words.

After months of asking for Archbishop Sheen’s intercession, she said it was the most natural thing in the world to turn to him again and ask him to pray for her son.

Although the child had miraculously survived after being clinically brain-dead for over an hour, doctors surmised that the child would most likely be blind, and never walk, talk or be able to feed himself.

However, today James Fulton Engstrom is a healthy young boy, thanks to Archbishop Sheen’s divine intervention.

We would have expected a vegetative state,” Dr. Corrales says. “And that’s not the case.” Today Fulton Engstrom is a typical active little boy and Dr. Corrales remains certain it is because of divine intervention. “I don’t use the word ‘miracle’ willy-nilly,” she says. “But you can’t explain this situation. It’s a miracle.”

The Catholic Church has completed a full investigation on the incident, and Pope Francis has confirmed moving forward in Canonizing Archbishop Sheen, to Saint Sheen in the near future.