Fulton J. Sheen

From Academic Kids

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Bishop Sheen was known for his dynamic and thoughtful preaching

Archbishop Fulton John Sheen (May 8, 1895December 9, 1979) was television's first preacher of note, in the early 1950s on the DuMont Television Network. DuMont was searching for programming ideas and put on a series of rotating religious programs with a Protestant minister, a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic bishop. While the other shows did not catch on, the bishop (Sheen) became an overnight hit, found a sponsor in Admiral television sets, and was DuMont's only Emmy Award winner in its brief period of broadcasting. It also held the distinction of being aired on more stations than any other regularly-scheduled DuMont program.

Airing opposite NBC's highly popular Milton Berle show on Tuesday nights, Sheen was the only show ever to give "Mr. Television" a run for his money, reportedly drawing as many as 10 million viewers. (Sheen and Berle enjoyed a friendly rivalry. Berle is reported to have joked, "We both work for the same boss, Sky Chief," making reference to a brand of gasoline produced by Texaco, his sponsor. Later, when Sheen won an Emmy, Berle quipped, "He's got better writers!" As a take-off on Berle's popular nickname with the public, Sheen once opened his program by saying, "Good evening, this is Uncle Fultie.")

Sheen's program, called Life Is Worth Living, was highly regarded by the public. When DuMont ceased network broadcasting in 1955, Sheen moved his show to ABC, then lectured for a while, and returned to television in 1961 with The Fulton Sheen Program, essentially another version of Life is Worth Living. The show was broadcast on local stations across America until 1968, with the later programs in color. Times had changed, however, and the 1960's programs did not match the audience of his earlier years. Prior to Life is Worth Living, Sheen appeared on the radio program Catholic Hour from 1930 to 1952.

Though he was known as Fulton (his mother's maiden name), he was baptized Peter John Sheen. He was educated at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and returned there to teach philosophy after his ordination. He later became national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He was Auxiliary Bishop of New York from 1951 to 1965, and Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969, where he created the Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation, which survives to this day. Upon resigning from his position in Rochester, he was appointed Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (Wales) by Pope Paul VI.

On October 2, 1979, two months before Sheen's death, Pope John Paul II visited St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and embraced Sheen, saying, "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church."

In 2002 Sheen's Cause for Canonization was officially opened, and so he is now referred to as a Servant of God.

Reruns of Sheen's various programs continue to air, as of 2005, on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).



  • Actor Martin Sheen has said on several occasions that he took his stage name from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.
  • Sheen often referred to his "angel" who would erase the blackboard when Sheen stepped away from it. This duty was performed by a never-seen stagehand.
  • The official repository of Sheen's papers, television programs, and other materials is St. Bernard's Institute in Rochester, New York.


  • Template:Sheen kicking - Life Is Worth Living
  • Bye now, and God love you! - Sheen's traditional closing to the program.


  • Sheen, Fulton J. (1980). Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen. Doubleday & Company.
  • Reeves, Thomas C. (2001). America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen. Encounter Books. ISBN 1-893554-25-2

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