Archbishop Sheen was known for his evangelism, radio broadcasts, and television show “Life is Worth Living”, which aired nationwide in the 1950s. For the last several years, Catholic dioceses have been at odds as to where his mortal remains should be interred. His remains have been interred in a crypt in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral since his passing in 1979.

His Last Will and Testament

New York’s archdiocese and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral argued that Archbishop Sheen desired to be buried in New York City as indicated in his Last Will and Testament executed five days before his passing in 1979. However, Archbishop Sheen’s niece, Joan Cunningham, believed that he should be interred at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois, where he was ordained in 1919, especially if it increases his chances of gaining sainthood. Since 2002, the Diocese of Peoria has been working on Archbishop Sheen’s Cause for Canonization as a saint and they plan to continue that quest.

The Court Ruling

In June, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that Archbishop Sheen’s remains shall be transferred to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois. The Court reasoned that, based on the record, had the Archbishop, a devout Catholic with a lifelong devotion to the Catholic Church, been given the choice of sainthood or to have his remains interred in New York City, he would likely choose .

Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains

As indicated above, when your wishes regarding a burial place are not clearly delineated in a written declaration, it can cause a lot of issues for your heirs. This can be avoided if the decedent executed a document called the Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains. Pursuant to New York’s Public Health Law § 4201(2), an individual may, in writing, designate a person to control the disposition of his or her remains. This document permits an individual to designate an agent to control the disposition of his or her remains as well as indicate specific instructions for his or her funeral or cremation. Not only does the document ensure that you reach the resting place of your choosing, but it also helps your family during one of the most difficult times of their lives – the loss of you.

As always, consult with an experienced elder law attorney to ensure your burial place wishes are met.

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