The 20th century’s “John the Baptist” comes to Des Moines

By Tom Quiner


James Engstrom was born dead.

For 61 minutes, he had no pulse.

Suddenly, his heart started.  Why?  Was it because of what his parents did that new life was breathed into James tiny heart?

What exactly did Travis and Bonnie Engstrom do?  They prayed.  Specifically, they prayed for the intercession of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who himself had been born in Central Illinois.

This life and death drama took place at the OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois on September, 16th, 2010.

The parents believe a miracle occurred.

The Catholic Church is slow to make such claims.  But James’ improbable resuscitation sparked an investigative tribunal by the Church.  The investigation is complete.  The results have been sent to Rome for consideration by the Congregation for the Causes for Saints.

The charismatic Archbishop Sheen is once again in the news with the cause for his beatification and sainthood being studied.

Archbishop Sheen had a highly popular television show in the 50s that was so good, he held his own against the Milton Berle Show and even won an Emmy award.

Father John Ludwig, pastor at St. John the Apostle in Norwalk jokes that …

“When I was a kid and Bishop Sheen was on TV, the comedian Milton Berle was on one of the other channels.  We always wanted to watch Milton Berle, but we had to watch Bishop Sheen.”

All I can say, Fr. John, is that your parents knew what they were doing!

The name of his show was, “Life is Worth Living.”  For a half hour, including commercials, this Catholic bishop simply talked and wrote a few words on a blackboard.  All of this on prime time television!

Can you imagine such a thing today?

And yet, America was mesmerized, with the possible exception of the young John Ludwig.

I have seen and heard some of Bishop Sheen’s talks in recent years, and read some of his writings.  He is a charismatic communicator and brilliant teacher, as Fr. Robert Harris at the All Saints parish attests:

“Bishop sheen’s ability to explain the Catholic faith in a way that was understood in a positive non- threatening manner was impressive.”

Somehow, Bishop Sheen could make the complex understandable.  Somehow, he could wrap you around his little finger and keep you spellbound as he convicted you that God is at work, this instant, in your life.

As a convert to the Catholic faith, I have discovered that the more I learn about Catholicism, the more beautiful it becomes.  Monsignor Frank Bognanno at Christ the King parish said that this was perhaps Bishop Sheen’s singular gift, an ability to help us understand the beauty and truth of Catholicism:

“Bishop Sheen was a man of courage who speaks the truth.  A great model for us today.  He knew the beauty and cogency of the Catholic belief and could clearly and forcefully explain them.  All Catholics need to know and be able to explain their beautiful beliefs.”

Bishop Sheen inspired many young men to consider the priesthood as their vocation. One of those is Monsignor Frank Chiodo, pastor of St. Anthony’s:

“From my youth, Bishop Sheen captured my imagination, moving my heart toward the priesthood.  Through the anointed words of this man with the scarlet cape, I sensed the calling to join him in preaching Christ Crucified & Risen.”

If you’d like to experience Bishop Sheen’s impact for yourself, please attend the “Bishop Sheen Event” on Saturday, April 28th at 11 AM at the Fleur Cinema.  Join your fellow Catholics in viewing a documentary titled, “Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Servant of All” and one of his most popular television talks.  In addition, Monsignor Frank Chiodo will talk about Bishop Sheen’s impact on America.

Tickets can be purchased in advance online at a discount:  $7 for adults and $5 for students; or at the door:  $8 for adults and $6 for students.  Questions?  Call Tom or Karen Quiner at 689-9266.

Monsignor John Kozar, of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, characterized Bishop Sheen as a “20th century John the Baptist.”

What a tribute!

Bishop Sheen died in 1979.  As the cause for his sainthood advances, let us come together on April 28th to honor this American original.


  1. trena on April 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

    April 28th is the Feastday of St. Gianna. What a great day to honor the life of a great man!

  2. Tom Maly on April 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Tom; We will be up in Minnesota watchin’ grand kids next weekend. Sorry to miss the Bishop!

    • quinersdiner on April 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      Have a great weekend!