PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- Documentation of two alleged miracles attributed to the intercession of the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen were sent to Rome this summer as part of the promotion of his sainthood cause.
The cases claiming the archbishop's intercession involve a woman from Champaign,Ill., and a baby in Pittsburgh, Pa. The cases were investigated and documented and, following ceremonies in Peoria and Pittsburgh, documentation was sealed and prepared for delivery to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes for further study.
The ceremony in Peoria was witnessed by several members of the Sheen family and officials promoting the sainthood cause. During the ceremony, folders containing more than 500 pages of witness testimony and medical data regarding the Champaign case were packaged and sealed.
The documents tell the story of the recovery of Therese Kearney, a member of Holy Cross Parish in Champaign, who suffered a tear in her main pulmonary artery during surgery in December 1999. When her husband, Frank, was told there was little chance for his wife's survival, he prayed to Archbishop Sheen, whom he had long admired.
Kearney, then in her early 70s, survived, but died just five days before the Peoria ceremony. Her husband, who first shared his wife's story with those promoting Archbishop Sheen's cause, died in February.
Msgr. Richard Soseman, whom Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky appointed as delegate to the archbishop's sainthood cause, said Kearney's death at age 79, more than six years after the alleged miracle, will not impact the case.
Archbishop Sheen, a native of El Paso, Ill., in the Diocese of Peoria, gained worldwide fame as a radio and television host and author. He died Oct. 3, 1979. The Diocese of Peoria officially launched his cause for canonization in September 2003.
Andrea Ambrosi, postulator for the archbishop's sainthood cause, traveled to Peoria to oversee the ceremonies and planned to hand-deliver the files to the Vatican congregation.
Those who prepared the documents pledged the accuracy and authenticity compiled in the three thick folders; two of them were to be sent to Rome while a third was to remain in the diocesan chancery.
"The diocese cannot presuppose that anything miraculous happened: That judgment is made in Rome," said Msgr. Soseman. "When Rome finds that something miraculous has occurred in such cases, it is seen as a sign of God's favor, working through the prayers of a candidate for sainthood, and so the process is able to move forward."
The Peoria ceremony closed months of fact-gathering facilitated by the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation and carried out by Msgr. Soseman, a medical expert and an ecclesiastical notary. Since last September, testimony had been gathered from doctors, a nurse, family members and a priest.
Ambrosi attended a similar ceremony in Pittsburgh with diocesan officials and documents surrounding the claim of a miraculous healing of a gravely ill Pittsburgh infant who recovered after his parents prayed for Archbishop Sheen's intercession.
Ambrosi said the child's disease and recovery were supported by the main physicians involved in his case and all of them "recognized that a force superior to their medical science intervened for his recovery."
The signed documents about the case, amounting to more than 1,000 pages of records and testimony from witnesses, were wrapped and sealed. The original copy of the documents remains with the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The infant's family are Ukrainian Catholics and belong to the Ukrainian Diocese of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio, whose territory includes western Pennsylvania. Because the diocese's resources and personnel were too limited to undertake the extensive investigation of the alleged miracle, the Pittsburgh Diocese agreed to do the legwork.
"It is a fascinating process," said Father Brian Welding, diocesan vice chancellor, judicial vicar and assistant director of the Department for Canon and Civil Law Services. "We are assisting in one of the most ancient processes of the church, one that despite all the revisions is still extremely complex and time-consuming.
"At the same time, even with all the meticulous documentation and care, and even considering how much more information and technology we have at our disposal, when you cut to the core of it, sainthood remains one of the great mysteries of the church," he said.
Archbishop Sheen's case is unusual in that two miracles have been investigated at a very early stage in the process, according to Ambrosi.
After beatification, in most cases at least one more miracle must be investigated and confirmed as having occurred before the person can be canonized and referred to as a saint.
- - -
Contributing to this story was William Hill in Pittsburgh.
Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops