Bishop Sheen Back to Illinois



About time:


– In a major court victory for the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, a New York appellate court voted unanimously to send the remains of Ven. Abp. Fulton J. Sheen back to his midwestern hometown.

In a 5-0 vote Tuesday, a New York appeals court ruled that Joan Sheen Cunningham, niece and closest living relative to Sheen, with legal rights over his body, could have her uncle’s remains disinterred and transferred back to Peoria.

“I’m awfully glad it’s gone our way,” said Cunningham in comments to Church Militant. “This is the third time [the court] has ruled in our favor. I just hope that this will be the end of it.”

“It’s been a long haul,” she added.

The court order noted that the “Supreme Court properly found that there are good and substantial reasons to disinter Archbishop Sheen’s earthly remains and transfer them to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria where he made his first Holy Communion, was ordained a priest and received his first pastoral assignment, and where a shrine is proposed to be erected to honor his life’s work in the Church.”

The diocese of Peoria and New York have been deadlocked over Sheen’s body for five years, after Cdl. Dolan — failing to honor the promises of his predecessor Cdl. Edward Egan — refused in 2014 to hand over Sheen’s remains to Peoria so his cause for sainthood could advance. New York insisted that Sheen’s body remain at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where they had plans to build a shrine in his honor and take over his cause for canonization — a reversal of Cdl. Egan’s prior claims that New York had no interest in Sheen. The Peoria diocese has spent approximately $1 million over the past 16 years advancing his cause. 

“While it is undisputed that burial in a crypt at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a high honor,” the court order continued, “the testimony of Archbishop Sheen’s family and respondents’ witness Msgr. Hilary C. Franco demonstrates that Archbishop Sheen lived with an even higher intent and purpose in mind, namely to attain Heaven and, if at all possible, sainthood.”

“We have considered respondents’ arguments and find them unavailing,” the order concluded.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Peoria diocese wrote:

Today’s decision is the third time that the New York court system ruled in support of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition. After each previous decision the Archdiocese of New York has appealed the decisions. The Diocese of Peoria hopes that the Archdiocese of New York will end the legal disputes and acknowledge that the Court has ruled. 


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  1. I agree Foxfier. It should have never started in the first place. New York should have sent his body back a long time ago

  2. Good news!

    I love the man.
    Wit, wisdom and humor.
    God bless His Angel’s, Saints and Venerables too.

  3. It would be interesting to know the back story on this whole affair. It would not be surprising if the question of “who profits” is not involved.

  4. Sheen outlived all of his siblings and all of their spouses bar one. His sister-in-law may not have had standing, but he did have 17 nieces and nephews. I’m puzzled as to why their views as to where he was to be interred were not paramount in 1979 absent some contrary instruction given his executor. Or was it they couldn’t agree among themselves?

  5. I rather suspect the New York Archdiocese buried him quickly after he died, and before his next of kin in Illinois could get organized Sheen made no secret that he did not want to be buried at Saint Pat’s. His experiences with the Archdiocese had not been happy ones, and he had bought a burial plot in Queens.


    This petition contends Mrs. Cunningham consented in 1979 to have her uncle interred in the crypt rather than in the archdiocesan cemetery. His will had indicated the cemetery. It doesn’t indicate the archdiocese asked anyone else for their consent. Mrs. Cunningham’s the only petitioner here. I think there might be as many as seven other Sheen shirt-tails surviving, one of whom can afford to live in the Hamptons. Why didn’t any of them sign on to the petition?

  7. his next of kin in Illinois

    As far as I can tell, there’s a niece in New Hampshire, a niece on Long Island, possibly a niece in Florida, a nephew in Rockford, and a nephew in Chicago (who was a lawyer at one time in his life), a niece on the California coast, and perhaps one other niece. Where are they with this?

  8. “there’s a niece in New Hampshire, a niece on Long Island…”

    And a boatload of cousins in Central Illinois. In fact I might even be distantly related to him because my paternal great-grandmother, whose maiden name was Fitzgerald, was born and raised in El Paso, Ill., and there was some connection between the Fitzgeralds and the Sheens, but I was never clear about what that connection was.

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