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America's First Televangelist

Fulton J. Sheen is an American born Catholic priest who rose to the position of Archbishop before his death in 1979 at the age of 84.

In 1930 Sheen began a weekly radio program called “The Catholic Hour.” On 12 Feb 1952 Sheen he made the move to television with a series entitled “Life Is Worth Living.” He stood in front of the camera and talked without cue cards. It ran opposite comedian Milton Berle’s show, at the time the most popular television show in America.

Berle and Sheen poked fun at each other. Since Berle was often referred to as ‘Uncle Miltie’ Sheen suggested that he should be called ‘Uncle Fultie.’ Berle, a vaudeville-style comedian, quipped that Sheen used old material also. He also said that both of them worked for ‘Sky Chief.” (Berle’s show was sponsored by Texaco which sold gasoline using the label “Sky Chief.”)

Bit by bit Sheen’s show began to increase in popularity. he received about 8.500 letters a week from viewers. The show was filmed in front of a live audience but demand for tickets always exceeded the supply.

In 1952 Sheen was nominated for an Emmy, the prize for American television. He sat in the audience listening to the winners thank their writers so, when it was announced that he had won, he stepped up to the podium and said, “I feel it is time I pay tribute to my four writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”

“Life Is Worth Living” ran until 1957 sometimes pulling in audiences of 30 million. Time Magazine called Sheen “the first televangelist.” From time to time EWTN, the Catholic cable network, runs the shows. The schedule can be found at

© 2019 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.

Photo is in the public domain.

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What do you think?

15 Points

Written by Gary J Sibio


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  1. These people spoil His name ,to gain fame and money. They have resorted to fraud and harvest souls by fooling people. Just by touching a holy CD they claim to cure cancer and many other ills. God has endowed us with a life and that cannot be negated by the antics of such con men.

    • There are a lot of televangelists who are frauds but not all of them. Some are only in it for the money but not all of them. The greedy ones tend to attract greedy followers. I’ve seen a few of his shows. Sheen did not do those things you mentioned.

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