“Servant of All” brings together still photos, TV clips and interviews with 35 people offering insights and perspectives on the archbishop. Among those appearing are Archbishop Sheen biographer Thomas Reeves of Franksville, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan and Regis Philbin.
“He made a tremendous impact on everybody, especially the Catholic family, who, frankly, never had someone talking to them on this (TV) every week on something like this (Gospel) either,” Philbin said of the 30 million viewers who tuned in every Tuesday night.
“Life is Worth Living” earned Archbishop Sheen an Emmy award in 1952 in the “Most Outstanding Personality on Television” category. In accepting the award, he thanked his writers, “Matthew, Mark Luke and John.”
Archbishop Dolan noted the importance the archbishop placed on eucharistic adoration – what Archbishop Sheen termed “the most important hour of my day.”
“For every minute he spoke, he spent an hour on his knees,” Archbishop Dolan said.
Although he had been the radio voice of “The Catholic Hour” for 20 years, Archbishop Sheen anticipated he would spend his priestly life teaching in the college classroom.
Archbishop Dolan recalled that Archbishop Sheen had to “make a choice: ‘Do I want to be a scholar, professor and teacher. Or do I want to give that up full time to fulfill the demands of writing and preaching?’ He chose the latter – at great personal sacrifice. Thank God he did.”
While TV made Archbishop Sheen a national celebrity – he received 15,000 letters daily – it also propelled him into international missionary work with the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. From those interviewed for the movie, one learns that he raised more than $17 million for the missions.
In 1951, Pope Pius XII appointed him an auxiliary bishop of New York under Cardinal Francis Spellman. The movie doesn’t avoid the contentious relationship between the two, but addresses it succinctly.
Quoting Archbishop Sheen regarding his years with the cardinal, the narrator notes, “It was difficult. Very difficult.”
In 1966, the then-71-year-old auxiliary was named bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y. – an appointment about which one interviewee said, “No one, including the bishop, saw it coming.” Almost three years later, he retired in order to write and do priest retreats and other speaking engagements.
One of the more striking pieces of video-narration comes near the end of the film when, on Oct. 2, 1979, Pope John Paul II embraces Archbishop Sheen during a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The pope’s message to the archbishop, as related by the narrator, is: “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the church.”
On Dec. 9, the archbishop died in his chapel.
Produced by Converse Marketing, Inc. of Peoria, “Servant of All” benefits from a tightly written script by Jason Saylers, also the producer and director, by the narration of Don Capone and from music that enhances the drama of the entire production. Bob Dolan of Milwaukee provided production assistance.