Meet James Fulton, the Alleged Miracle for the Beatification of Fulton Sheen

As you know, I am a Chief Editor along with Tito Edwards at Ignitum Today, the social network of the JP2 and B16 generations.  One of our contributors, Bonnie Engstrom, wrote back in September 2011 about the riveting survival of her infant son, an alleged miracle that the family believes was through the intercession of the now Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  Bonnie informed us last week that this alleged miracle has been chosen as the one to be submitted for review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and if it is declared a true miracle then Archbishop Fulton Sheen will be beatified.  It has been so exciting to share in this remarkable journey through Bonnie’s writing.  When the pastor at our parish in New York announced this good news from the pulpit last Sunday, I smiled at my husband and thought, “I know the family involved!”  It’s an amazing and glorious story.

You can read more at Catholic News Service and at Bonnie’s website, Learning to Be a Newlywed, but before you read anything else, you need to read her original story when she told us about the day her son, James Fulton, was born.  It is reprinted below with her permission.  Thank you Bonnie.

61 Minutes

By Bonnie Engstrom, September 16, 2011

One year ago today I delivered my son, a stillborn.  For a moment he was placed in my arms quiet, blue, and limp.  The midwife and her assistant then took him from me and began CPR.  They could not find a pulse.  He did not breathe.  Because we were at home (it was my third, planned homebirth) 911 was called.

While cpr was continued and we waited for the ambulance my husband took water and baptized him using the name we had agreed upon, James Fulton.  I remember sitting on the floor saying, “Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen” over and over again in my head.  I suppose it was as close as I could come to a prayer; I suppose it was my way of asking Archbishop Sheen to interceded for my son.

The paramedics came and rushed James away.  In route, as they tried to restart his heart, they gave him two doses of epinephrine by lines in the shin bone.  Neither worked and one leaked out, turning his whole right leg – from toe tip to buttock – black and blue and purple.   In the ER the doctors and nurses worked on him for another 18 minutes or so.  A nurse practitioner told me she wanted James’ mother to be able to hold him alive for a little bit.  Five minutes, an hour – she just wanted my son to be alive long enough for me to say good-bye.

They did a sonogram of his heart.  It fluttered but it didn’t beat.  A nurse held his foot; she later told me it was cold, like the expression “cold and dead”.  He was intibated and getting oxygen, but there was no way that the chest compressions were adequately circulating the oxygen to the brain and other organs.  Following the orders of the on-call neonatalogist they stopped working on him so they could call time of death.

My little boy, James Fulton, 9lbs and 12oz, had been without a pulse for 61 minutes.

Everyone stopped working.  And then his heart started.

James was admitted to the NICU at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois and was immediately “cooled” – a newer type of therapy where they lower the body’s temperature by a few degrees in an effort to spare the brain and other organs further and ongoing damage.  For three days he was sedated and shivering, covered in tubes and wires.  They thought that he would not live to be a week old.  They thought he would have to lose his right leg because of the chemical burn.  They thought that if he did live he would be a “vegetable”.  They tried to give us hope, but they thought that he would probably spend the rest of his life strapped in a wheelchair, blind, severely mentally disabled, on a ventilator, fed through a feeding tube, in diapers, unable to communicate love.

EEG’s showed very abnormal brain activity.  An MRI showed that the brain had been injured from the severe lack of oxygen.

At times I wondered if we should have just stayed home and never called 911.  I worried that I had become Dr. Frankenstein and had, through other people, manipulated James into life.  I worried that he would be treated like a monster.

In the situation we were in I could either worry or I could hope.  I could fear or I could trust.  We had prayerfully decided to have a homebirth and so I knew that we were following God’s plan for our lives.  I didn’t know where we would end up, but I knew that I could not live in the dark – I had to hope and trust – I had to live in the Light.

So we prayed, and we asked people to pray with us.  Two days after his birth 100 people, many I barely knew, came to the Peoria Diocese’s cathedral.  In the church where Fulton Sheen served Mass and was later ordained, we had a holy hour and Mass.  As a group we prayed for Sheen’s intercession:  Eternal Father, You alone grant us every blessing in Heaven and on earth, through the redemptive mission of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and by the working of the Holy Spirit.  If it be according to Your Will, glorify Your servant, Fulton J. Sheen, by granting the favor I now request through his prayerful intercession – that James Fulton’s body heals and functions normally and that he is spared any brain damage. I make this prayer confidently through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Friends told James’ story on Facebook, in emails, on blogs, and to their prayer groups, prayer chains, Bible studies, family members, and friends.  People in Alaska, New York, Mexico, Peru, Germany, Ireland, and Canada prayed for my son, asking for Sheen’s intercession.  Atheists asked their believing friends to pray for him.  Classrooms of children in Catholic schools throughout Illinois recited the Sheen prayer every day.  Little children adopted him as their main prayer intention.  My dad began attending Mass again on a regular basis.

Say hello to James Fulton

And God answered the prayers.  Jesus Christ healed my son.  The Holy Spirit filled the hearts His faithful.  And Sheen continued to evangelize through his namesake and my son.  By the time he was a few days old his kidneys, liver, and colon were all working.  His leg was healing.  By a week he was breathing without any assistance.  His blood pressure was good.  He began eating by bottle.  He was taken off pain meds and started to interact with me, his visitors, nurses, and doctors.  At seven weeks he came home from the hospital.  A follow-up MRI showed no more brain damage.  The precautionary g-tube was removed when he was six months old.  Now he rolls over, crawls, cruises, and will walk soon.  He eats Cheerios, picking them up with his thumb and pointer finger.  He squeals with laughter, plays with blocks, steals toys from his older siblings, and has scored in the normal / age appropriate range by his developmental and physical therapist.

My family and I believe that God brought James back from the dead and healed his body.  We believe that He did this through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen.  We believe that God did this for the same reason that he allowed Lazarus to die:  “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

Today my son is one year old.  Thank you, Jesus, and Happy Birthday, James Fulton!

Click here.

To learn more, visit The Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation.

25 Replies to “Meet James Fulton, the Alleged Miracle for the Beatification of Fulton Sheen”

  1. I am a devout Catholic and a Nurse who used to work in Neonatology. I struggle to describe my faith in the reality yet unpredictability of miracles. Your story is a wonderful demonstration of how you can KNOW miracles are real, you can REQUEST one and if you get it you can APPRECIATE it. What you can’t do is DEMAND it or create a medical plan of care EXPECTING it. A real miracle defies the laws of nature. James’ survival as intact as he is defies many well understood laws of nature and science.

    Praise God for his survival and his thriving.

  2. Thank you for posting that story. It made me well up with tears, but not for the reason you think. Although it’s a wonderful miracle – the part that got to me was where Bonnie said: “I could fear or I could trust. – I could not live in the dark. – I had to hope and trust. I had to live in the light.” I’m a single mom who right now is teeter-tottering between total despair & wanting to give up, and just getting by. Last night in fact, I couldn’t sleep – even less that usual and was especially racked with grief and hopelessness. I was really bawling my eyes out and was really calling out to everyone I could think of: Jesus, Bl. Mother, St Joseph – even my deceased mother-in-law! But I’ve also chosen Bishop Sheen to help me with a particular problem. Maybe this is his way of giving me something to hang on to? I hope so. I’m going to make Bonnie’s words my new prayer now, and continue to pray to Bishop Sheen. Thank you and bless you for this story and to the mother who shared this.
    Love, Terry

  3. Amazing! Thank you for sharing here Stacy. God’s designs are so perfect- I am always so grateful to be part of the Body, not just an individual floating through life alone 🙂

  4. God Bless JAMES FULTON!! – What a wonderful story of life and miracles! – Fulton Sheen interceded for my store to stay open! – Praise God!!!

  5. Wonderful post….our God is so lovely. I love Fulton Sheen and this miracle would be so like him!!

    Blessings on your whole family~

  6. It’s a wonderful story, but the baby seemed to gradually heal from the ailments he sustained at birth and all the healing isn’t even complete yet (the mother says there are still ongoing residual ailments). The mother says the heart stopped beating for 61 minutes, but says the heart was “fluttering.” If it was fluttering, that means the heart was still working to some degree. For a miracle to be approved, the guidelines state that it must be spontaneous and complete. This case doesn’t meet that criteria.

  7. Also, the brain can repair itself and naturally heal from brain damage. This happens often.

  8. Good Morning, I opened Spirit Daily,as I do first thing in the morning. I have been “a fan”. of our beloved Bishop Fulton Sheen since I was a child. I am 74 years of age. Our family gathered around the tiny TV faithfully to listen to Bishop Sheen. He really ministered to me as I had a very troubled childhood.
    Years later on October 13 2001 my first born ,a daughter,Maureen Elizabeth,age 39 ,died of ovarian cancer. We,at the time lived in N.C.,Maureen lived with her family in N.J.

    After the funeral my husband and I returned to N.C. He already had dementia,so the trip took longer since he tired so easily. We also drove to Virginia to pick up a kitten,a Siberian ,which we had reserved many month before. Our trip back home took almost 3 days,staying at motels along the way.

    Finally we were home, exhausted I colapsd on the couch and as habit will do,I turned on the TV. EWTN quickly came into view,as I had been praying the rosary with Mother Angelica before we had departed to NJ. Bishop Sheen was glowing,he spun around to face the TV,as he was want to do and he called out loudly, “What happened on October 13th”. I screamed out ,” My daughter died on October 13th”. I began to sob,for the first time. Bishop Sheen gently and quietly told us ,”October 13 was the last appearence of Our Lady at Fatima, October 13th is a Blessed day.
    Oh my, oh my, I called out to the TV.My beloved child died on a blessed day.

    Trul, from the beginning of time this time was appointed by God, as if The Lord had called down from His Throne, Eileen,all is well,all is well. We drove miles and miles, and at a split second I turned on the Tv to hear Bishop telling me ,all is well.

    I have prayed every day for all Blessings for our Bishop and Sainthood soon.

    cCelebrate life,
    Eileen Curran

  9. Mike, what you say about the brian being able to heal itself is true, as I understand it but I have no medical training. Also, James was “p.e.a. on the monitor” which means “pulseless electrial activity”. Electrical impulses were still happening in the heart but it was not pumping. It doesn’t matter if there are sporadic electrical impulses, if the heart is not pumping blood is not delivering oxygen to the body.

    Also, as James has continued to age we have learned that some of his ailments are actually related to severe allergies. He does see a feeding/speech therapist but so do other kids (for the same reasons) who were not dead for an hour.

    “For a miracle to be approved, the guidelines state that it must be spontaneous and complete. This case doesn’t meet that criteria.” I would argue that you are incorrect. The canon lawyers, medical experts, theologians, bishop, and postulators who worked on the tribunal (and actually saw all the medical records and witness testimony, unlike you) would also disagree with you. However, the pope might not. But James was dead and then he came back to life. Spontaneous and complete.

  10. Thank you Bonnie for this beautiful testimony. I am so glad your father started going to Mass again, the Lord uses little lambs like James to get our attention.My father use to watch Fulton Sheen on TV when I was growing up.I am so happy that we have another saint in the making.Fulton Sheen was a household name in my childhood, Thank you Jesus for Fulton Sheen, I also thank you Jesus for the healing of little James Fulton.

    God bless you,

    Kim Layton

  11. Dear Stacy, I am so happy for Bonnie and her family as they have truly received a most precious gift in their beautiful son James Fulton. I can identify with the emotions of this dear family as God gave us dear sweet angel of God John Peter. He was born on March 9, 1987 weighing 2 pounds. I came down with severe pre-eclampsia and was on 3 different blood pressure medicines. I cried so hard after I saw John Peter hooked up to a ventilater, monitors and tubes of all kinds. He remained in Neo Natal intensive care for 8 months. One day the nurse went to weigh him and disconnected him from his new trach ( they thought he had pneumonia ) and John Peter went without oxygen for over 13 minutes. We saw him the next day and he was the color of the white sheet. His beautiful body was contracted and left side paralyzed. All I could do was pray and I have been a believer and mass attendant. I finally got to hold him in May and he had a period of bradycardia and stopped breathing. We too were told he would be blind, be severely mentally retarded, never walk or talk which was true and did happen………..but to be incapable of love ????? So not true. John Peter lived his quiet life with us for 23 years giving us soooooooo much love and joy. He had severe cerebral palsy and had a g tube. I was able to feed him pureed foods as a younger child and banana cream pie was his favorite birthday treat. ( the inside pudding part and whip cream ) I just accepted early on that this dear sweet baby was coming home to us and we were going to love him and that we did. God carried us through so many ups and downs, 13 different surgeries, therapies, bronchitis, severe scoliosis of his spine and finally pneumonia brought him home to the arms of Jesus. He died on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec 12th 2010. I did not anticipate how much I would miss my dear boy as I sit here today on 7-5-2012 I well up with tears. I pray all of the time prayers of heartfelt gratefulness and praise for the gift of John Peter’s beautiful life. He lived each day with a smile on his precious face. The Director of the Assoc of the Miraculous Medal wrote me after learning about John Peter ( when still alive ) that He believed God gave John Peter special graces to bear his sufferings and this brought me so much comfort. I tell Jesus all of the time I want to be in heaven with John Peter and I wait for the day God calls me home. Until then I am grateful for every grace and blessing bestowed upon us as a family and on dear John Peter. Please share my story with Bonnie and have her please kiss beautiful James Fulton for me. I would love to hear from you Stacy when you have time. I am one of 7 myself. God bless you all, Nancy Sartori

  12. Every human has some limitations, so it seems to me it would be hard to judge when a healing was “complete”.

    As a person who has resuscitated newborns (both successfully and unsuccessfully) I will share that its not uncommon to stop a resuscitation after 10 -15 minutes with no response as it is known that they baby could not have survived that long with out oxygen. Often the team will go a bit longer so that the family feels that the baby got a chance, but after 10 minutes, we dont hold out hope for any sort of spontaneous recovery.

    I am not fond of the word “miracle” being bandied about in the NICU too often because doing so has some really unfortunate results (long story) I ask you to keep my severe reluctance in mind when I tell you that I see James Fultons recovery as a miracle.

  13. Although not an expert in a medical sense, as an attorney dealing with malpractice cases involving birth related injuries, the situation described is, at a minimum, very well outside the norm. Bradycardia in term infants (usually defined as fewer than 110 bpms) is considered an ominous sign (when other indicators are present) and possibly indication of lack of oxygen to the brain. If bradycardia is considered that important, intermittent heart flutters are even more so. 61 minutes in that state would reasonably expect to lead to severe injury. As someone above indicated, it’s not just the beats, but the amount of perfusion of oxygen to the brain (blood ph would be another indicator of perfusion). With that low level of intermittent heart activity, it would be hard pressed to expect suffcient perfusion.

    Leaving the final deterimination to the Church experts, this event was certainly extraordinary.

  14. Faith and trust, quite often are the words tossed about in every religious circles. Being used like salt, or seasoning on any dialogue. Good for you to have use such strong words with pure honesty.

  15. I’ve never understood why people pray to men rather than God. I’m not disputing the mother’s experience, but she seems short-sighted to think God is too busy or too distant to handle every prayer with complete holy attention.

    My Bible at our parish says, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” in the Book of Hebrews. I thought this meant God wanted us to meet Him directly, in person, confident that He’ll listen.

    Did God intervene despite the woman’s sensed need to go through a mediator? I can’t say. I can say our Lord, our Father who art in Heaven loves us so much.

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