Fulton J. Sheen: Responding to the Call

December 11, 2012

Acknowledged as one of the most influential Catholic voices of the 20th Century, the legendary Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen embraced the new media of his day and broadcast the Gospel to tens of millions of eager listeners via radio and television. Kindly Light Media of the Province of Saint Joseph is currently producing a film based on Fulton Sheen’s tremendous insights into the art of preaching to the modern world. Well before he became a cultural sensation, Fulton Sheen was a highly-motivated college student searching for a way to pay for his education. It was during those collegiate years at Saint Viator College in Illinois that he made his decision to become a priest. In his autobiography, “Treasure in Clay,” he describes this critical moment of acceptance: A national examination was given to college students. The prize was a three-year university scholarship. I took the examination and won one of the scholarships. I was informed sometime during the summer and immediately went up to St. Viator’s College to see Father William J. Bergan, by now my dear friend. He was on the tennis court when I arrived. With great glee and delight I announced: “Father Bergan, I won the scholarship!” He put his hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and said: “Fulton, do you believe in God?” I replied: “You know that I do.” He said: “I mean practically, not from a theoretical point of view.” This time I was not so sure, and I said: “Well, I hope I do.” “Then tear up the scholarship.” “Father Bergan, this scholarship entitles me to three years of university training with all expenses paid. It is worth about nine or ten thousand dollars.” He retorted: “You know you have a vocation; you should be going to the seminary.” I countered with this proposal: “I can go to the seminary after I get my Ph.D., because there will be little chance of getting a Ph.D. after I am ordained, and I would like very much to have a good education.” He repeated: “Tear up the scholarship; go to seminary. That is what the Lord wants you to do. And if you do it, trusting in Him, you will receive a far better university education after your are ordained than before.” I tore up the scholarship and went to the seminary. I have never regretted that visit and that decision.

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