Blog Post

Rome Considers Possible Miracle for Ven. Fulton Sheen

Documentation on the miraculous revival of a stillborn baby whose parents prayed to Ven. Fulton Sheen for the life of their child is now under consideration by the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) is reporting that James Fulton Engstrom, now aged two, had a rocky start in life. His parents, Bonnie and Travis Engstrom, had brought their first two children into the world at home with a midwife and planned to do the same for James - until something went terribly wrong.

James Fulton Engstrom (far right) with siblings Bennet, Lydia, and baby Teresa

"There was a knot in the umbilical cord and the baby, weighing 9 pounds 12 ounces, was stillborn," writes Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller for the OSV.

"He was blue and limp when the midwife placed him briefly in his mother’s arms then took him back to start CPR. There was no pulse or breathing, and while they waited for an ambulance, Travis took water and baptized his son James Fulton."

The name was chosen because of the couple's love for Venerable Fulton Sheen who was born in El Paso, Illinois, not far from where they had both grown up.

Bonnie remembers sitting on the floor after the delivery, thinking over and over, “Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen.” In her despair, it was as close as she could come to a prayer.

Paramedics arrived and tried to start James' heart on the way to the hospital to no avail. Doctors and nurses in the emergency room worked on him for another 18 minutes after they arrived, intubating him with oxygen while doctors compressed his chest. But a sonogram showed that his heart was only fluttering. Sixty-one minutes after James' birth, doctors decided to stop trying and to declare the time of death.

Just as they stopped, James' heart started beating.

His life was saved, but he was not out of the woods yet. He was taken to the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit where his body temperature had to be lowered to lessen any further damage to his brain and other organs.

Doctors did not expect him to live beyond a week. Engstrom was told that if he did survive, he would be disabled, blind, severely cognitively impaired and would need a ventilator and feeding tube.

"All they had left was prayer and their trust in God, and they asked people to pray with them," Eidemiller writes. "Two days after James’ birth, 100 people, some strangers, came to be part of a special Holy Hour and liturgy at the cathedral where Archbishop Sheen had been ordained and served Mass. They prayed for his intercession."

To everyone's amazement, James Fulton not only recovered, but is now a healthy two-year-old.

“He has a speech delay, but he meets all the standards for his growth and fine motor skills, his receptive language is spot on and he uses sign language,” Bonnie told the OSV.

On Sept. 7, 2011, a diocesan tribunal was sworn in to investigate James’ alleged miraculous healing. Their documentation has now been forwarded to Rome where it will be investigated further.

Bishop Sheen was a prolific writer and speaker who was best known for his evening radio program “The Catholic Hour” (1930-1950)  and two popular television programs - “Life Is Worth Living” on television (1951-1957) and “The Fulton Sheen Program” (1961-1968). Considered the first televangelist, his shows drew up to 30 million viewers at one time. He died in 1979 and his cause for sainthood was opened in 2002. He was declared Venerable in June of this year.

In his homily at the Mass of celebration, Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Sheen Foundation, said that the greatest thing about Ven. Sheen was not the miracles he worked after death, but the “miracle of transformative love” in the life of Sheen and in all who love Jesus Christ.

“Fulton Sheen could roar like a lion from the pulpit because he listened to the small, still voice of the merciful and just king of the universe,” Msgr. Deptula said. “He really loved Jesus. And he knew that Jesus loved him. And he wanted to share that love with the world. This is what we celebrate today. This is what the world needs.”

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