Life Supporters Learn About Miracles
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
January 31, 2019
ROCKFORD—On Jan. 25, the speakers at the 24th annual Respect Life Banquet at Holy Family Parish talked a lot about miracles.
 
Michael O’Neill, known professionally as The Miracle Hunter, introduced the keynote speaker by talking about some of the criteria required for a miracle to be used for a cause for canonization.
 
For example, the physical cure must be “fairly instantaneous,” he said, as well as complete, permanent and without any medical treatment related to the cure. 
 
Additionally, for a miracle to assist a cause, only that potential saint could be invoked.
 
So far, those strict rules have been satisfied in the miracle experienced in the life of keynote speaker, Bonnie Engstrom, who was accompanied to the banquet by her husband, Travis. 
 
Their son James Fulton was miraculously healed after his umbilical cord knotted and then tightened shut during his birth.
 
Engstrom’s “neck of the woods” is Archbishop Fulton Sheen territory, the Peoria Diocese. 
 
In addition to many first-person stories of the El Paso- native that circulate in and around Peoria to this day, she adds hers. 
 
Engstrom says she came to know the Venerable Sheen during that pregnancy through YouTube videos of his Emmy-winning 1950s television show, “Life Is Worth Living,” 
 
“He was funny,” she says. “He told stories ... and had a zeal for Jesus (and) he was so prolife ... . It was a gift getting to know Fulton Sheen.”
 
Engstrom described her fourth pregnancy as “something special” in practical and also rather mystical ways. “We could tell,” she said, “we were on the cusp of something great.”
 
She and her husband pondered it all and concluded, “This baby’s going to be the pope!”
 
She and Travis always name their children “very intentionally,” she said, with saints and family as their inspiration. 
 
James Fulton was born at home with a midwife and assistant in attendance. He was ashen gray, limp, motionless and without a pulse. The midwife began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. 
 
Engstrom described how “I was shutting down inside” and could only repeat over and over “Fulton Sheen. Fulton Sheen.”
 
A still-emotional Engstrom described the remainder of the day’s ordeal— how Travis dipped his fingers in water and baptized the baby, and the ambulance and the emergency room efforts to save him. 
 
The medical professionals believed, Engstrom said, they were working on a corpse.
 
“They did all they could do to restart his heart,” she said. But James and his heart were “just still as could be.” 
 
The medical team decided to give it five more minutes of effort before declaring the child’s time of death. 
 
Then, as soon as the hospital staff stopped their efforts and removed all pieces of medical apparatus, James Fulton’s heart began beating on its own — 147 times a minute, which, Engstrom said, is the normal rate for a newborn.
 
Still, he had been without oxygen and essentially dead for 61 minutes. 
 
The medical team connected him to breathing and feeding tubes and cooled his body. They all expected that, one by one, his organs would shut down and he would die, either that night or within the next few days.
 
But the next morning, he was still alive, and instead of needing amputation, his leg —blackened from chemical attempts to start his heart — was mostly back to a normal color.
 
A regular blogger, Engstrom had people “all over the world” praying during her pregnancy. Asking the medical team what specifically she should ask those people to pray for, she began blogging and getting everyone to pray for those particular improvements through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. 
 
And James Fulton kept making those improvements in big ways. 
 
They were able to hold James when he was six days old, and at seven weeks were told to take him home because he was healthy.
 
And now the child they were told would die — or live and be blind, wheelchair-bound, in need of tubes for feeding and breathing, and with severe Cerebral Palsy — is as normal as a kid can be.
 
Engstrom’s mother told her to call the Sheen Foundation about the miracle. 
 
“It is amazing how thorough they are,” she said of the resulting diocesan tribunal which collected testimonies from doctors, examinations of medical records and interviews with all involved. Everything was documented and sent to Rome.
 
The miracle had unanimously passed the medical and theologian tiers of the Vatican sainthood process before Fulton Sheen’s cause was put on hold as the Peoria Diocese attempts to move Archbishop Sheen’s remains to Peoria. 
 
Once that is resolved, the Engstrom miracle will be presented to a third tier of cardinals and bishops for examination. If approved there, it goes to the pope.
 
Once all is complete, Venerable Fulton Sheen will be set to be beatified — with the witness of little James Fulton’s miraculous healing.
 
“All of this is done for the glory and honor of Jesus,” Engstrom concluded. “It really is a prolife story ...
“A baby is only a gift ... and always a gift.”