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Church, City Leaders Celebrate Renaming Street For Sheen

While Peoria’s wet and windy weather Thursday necessitated some minor changes in plans, it did not dampen a midday celebration honoring the legacy of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Diocese of Peoria leaders and city officials came together in unveiling and blessing four street signs renaming the portion of Madison Avenue in front of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception after Sheen, a candidate for sainthood.

“These were the streets where he grew up,” said Monsignor Stanley Deptula, Executive Director of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation and Director of the Sheen Canonization Cause. “As a young priest, he walked the streets of the south side of Peoria going door to door, walking around, bringing the message of the gospel to the people of his neighborhood.

“And then it is from these very streets that Fulton Sheen went on, to change the world – not just the Catholic world, but the world – with a message that ‘Life Is Worth Living.’”

Those last four words were the title of Sheen’s popular 1950s evangelical television show that allowed him to spread his message. Bishop Daniel Jenky said Sheen is an inspiration not just for central Illinois, but for the church and world as a whole.

“He did not just stay in his room; he went out and evangelized. He was famous for talking to beggars, cab drivers, Hollywood stars, politicians; he would not pass by an opportunity to bring Christ to the world. ... He was a gift to the American Catholic Church, to the universal church and to the world.”

Also attending the ceremony were Mayor Jim Ardis, At-Large Councilman Sid Ruckriegel, and Jenky’s successor, Coadjutor Bishop Lou Tylka, along with Archbishop Sheen’s niece, Dolores Sheen. Ardis said naming the street is one of the bigger steps in anticipation of a future celebration when the canonization process is complete.

“On behalf of the city and across all faiths, it is so humbling for us to be able to recognize a man – a man of God – who did so much and whose works are really still so unbelievably relevant if you look at some of his videos,” Ardis said. “It's just so appropriate that we're able to honor and recognize him.”

The remarks during the ceremony had to be moved inside the cathedral’s vestibule when a tent outside the cathedral was unable to withstand the wind. Tylka also read his blessing indoors before proceeding outside to sprinkle holy water on the signs once they were uncovered.

Jenky opened Sheen's Cause for Canonization as a Saint in 2002. Ten years later, Sheen was declared "Venerable" by Pope Benedict, but in December 2019, Pope Francis postponed the beatification.

“It’s been quite a process, years in the making. We've had some significant milestones along the way,” said Deptula. “Last year, the Holy Father declared a miracle through his intercession – that we believe God worked a miracle and actually healed a dead baby through Fulton Sheen's intercession.

“Now we just wait for a couple more things to be cleared up, and then the beatification will be ready to go. I think those next steps are really kind of above my pay grade; we're kind of waiting to get some more direction from the Vatican and some of the bishops of our country.”

Sheen was born in El Paso in 1895 and died in 1979; his body was transferred from New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral to a tomb in St. Mary’s Cathedral two years ago. He would become the first U.S. native to achieve sainthood. Jenky said he is praying that Sheen soon will be “raised in the altars of the church” and declared “blessed” as a saint.

“I am very proud that he comes from here. I am very happy and blessed that his remains rightly are interred in our beloved cathedral,” said Jenky. “He is the inspiration I think we need today in this time of fear and isolation and all the things people have been facing.”

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