Edward J. Flanagan

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Edward Joseph Flanagan

Boys Town founder Edward J. Flanagan.jpg
Archdiocese Omaha
Ordination26 July 1912
Personal details
Birth nameEdward Joseph Flanagan
Born(1886-07-13)13 July 1886
Leabeg, County Roscommon
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Died15 May 1948(1948-05-15) (aged 61)
Berlin, Germany
BuriedDowd Memorial Chapel
Immaculate Conception Parish
Boys Town, Nebraska, US
Denomination Catholic
OccupationFounder of Boys Town
EducationBachelor of Arts (1906)
Master of Arts (1908)
Alma mater Mount St. Mary's University
Emmitsburg, Maryland, US
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Servant of God
Ordination history of
Edward J. Flanagan
Diaconal ordination
Date25 July 1912
Place University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria-Hungary
Priestly ordination
Date26 July 1912
Place University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria-Hungary

Monsignor Edward Joseph Flanagan (13 July 1886 – 15 May 1948) was an Irish-born priest of the Catholic Church in the United States. He founded the orphanage known as Boys Town located in Boys Town, Douglas County, Nebraska, which now also serves as a center for troubled youth.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Orphanage residential institution devoted to the care of orphans

Historically, an orphanage was a residential institution, or group home, devoted to the care of orphans and other children who were separated from their biological families. Examples of what would cause a child to be placed in orphanages are when the biological parents were deceased, the biological family was abusive to the child, there was substance abuse or mental illness in the biological home that was detrimental to the child, or the parents had to leave to work elsewhere and were unable or unwilling to take the child. The role of legal responsibility for the support of children whose parent(s) have died or are otherwise unable to provide care differs internationally.

Boys Town, formerly Girls and Boys Town and Father Flanagan's Boys' Home, is a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for its children and families.


Early years

Flanagan was born in the townland of Leabeg, County Roscommon, near the village of Ballymoe, County Galway, Ireland. [1] His parents were John (a herdsman) and Honoria Flanagan. [2] He attended Summerhill College, Sligo, Ireland.

County Roscommon County in the Republic of Ireland

County Roscommon is a county in Ireland. In the western region, it is part of the province of Connacht. It is the 11th largest Irish county by area and 27th most populous. Its county town and largest town is Roscommon. Roscommon County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county was 64,544 according to the 2016 census.

Ballymoe Town in Connacht, Ireland

Ballymoe is a village in County Galway, Ireland. Ballymoe is situated on the western side of the River Suck that separates counties Galway and Roscommon. The N60 national secondary road meets the R360 regional road in the centre of the village.

County Galway County in the Republic of Ireland

County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West of Ireland, part of the province of Connacht.

In 1904, he immigrated to the United States and became a US citizen in 1919. He attended Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where in 1906 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree in 1908. Father Flanagan studied at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. He continued his studies in Italy and at the University of Innsbruck in Austria where he was ordained a priest in 1912. His first parish was in O'Neill, Nebraska, where from 1912 he served as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. He then moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to serve as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Church and later at St. Philomena's Church.

Mount St. Marys University American private, liberal arts, Catholic university in Maryland

Mount St. Mary's University is a Catholic liberal arts university near Emmitsburg, Maryland. The campus includes the second largest Catholic seminary in the United States. Lay students can pursue a Master of Arts in Theology at the seminary.

Emmitsburg, Maryland Town in Maryland, United States

Emmitsburg is a town in Frederick County, Maryland, United States, just south of the Mason-Dixon line separating Maryland from Pennsylvania. Founded in 1785, Emmitsburg is the home of Mount St. Mary's University. The town has two Catholic pilgrimage sites: the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is on the campus of Mount St. Mary's, and the Basilica and National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was the first native born United States citizen to be canonized as a saint. The Seton Shrine is one of the top eight Catholic pilgrimage destinations in the United States.

Saint Josephs Seminary (Dunwoodie) major seminary of the Archdiocese of New York

St. Joseph's Seminary and College, sometimes referred to as Dunwoodie after the Yonkers, New York neighborhood it is located in, is the major seminary of the Archdiocese of New York. Its primary mission is to form men for the priesthood in the Catholic Church. It educates men destined to serve within the Archdiocese and other archdioceses and dioceses both in the United States and abroad.

In 1917, he founded a home for homeless boys in Omaha. Bishop Jeremiah James Harty of the Diocese of Omaha had misgivings, but endorsed Father Flanagan's experiment. Because the downtown facilities were inadequate, Flanagan established Boys Town, ten miles west of Omaha, in 1921. Under Father Flanagan's direction, Boys Town grew to be a large community with its own boy-mayor, schools, chapel, post office, cottages, gymnasium, and other facilities where boys between the ages of 10 and 16 could receive an education and learn a trade. Flanagan did not believe in the reform school model, and stated, "there's no such thing as a bad boy". [3]

Jeremiah James Harty Roman Catholic archbishop

Jeremiah James Harty was an American prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as the 26th Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines from 1903 to 1916 before returning to the United States, where he served as Archbishop of Omaha from 1916 to 1927.


A 1938 film starring Spencer Tracy, Boys Town , was based on the life of Father Flanagan, and Tracy won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance. Mickey Rooney also starred as one of the residents. Spencer Tracy spent his entire Oscar acceptance speech talking about Father Flanagan. "If you have seen him through me, then I thank you." An overzealous MGM publicity representative announced that Tracy was donating his Oscar to Flanagan without confirming it with Tracy. Tracy's response was: "I earned the...thing. I want it." The Academy hastily struck another inscription, Tracy kept his statuette, and Boys Town got one, too. It read: "To Father Flanagan, whose great humanity, kindly simplicity, and inspiring courage were strong enough to shine through my humble effort. Spencer Tracy." [4]

Spencer Tracy American actor

Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was an American actor, noted for his natural style and versatility. One of the major stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, Tracy won two Academy Awards for Best Actor from nine nominations, sharing the record for nominations in that category with Laurence Olivier.

<i>Boys Town</i> (film) 1938 film by Norman Taurog

Boys Town is a 1938 biographical drama film based on Father Edward J. Flanagan's work with a group of underprivileged and delinquent boys in a home that he founded and named "Boys Town". It stars Spencer Tracy as Father Edward J. Flanagan, and Mickey Rooney with Henry Hull, Leslie Fenton, and Gene Reynolds.

Academy Award for Best Actor award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The Academy Award for Best Actor is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance in a leading role while working within the film industry. The award was traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Actress winner.

Some scenes from the movie were filmed at Boys Town, and Father Flanagan reviewed the script prior to the filming. A sequel also starring Tracy, Men of Boys Town , was released in 1941.

<i>Men of Boys Town</i> 1941 film by Norman Taurog

Men of Boys Town is a 1941 American drama film directed by Norman Taurog and written by James Kevin McGuinness. It is a sequel to the 1938 film Boys Town. The film stars Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Bobs Watson, Larry Nunn, Darryl Hickman and Henry O'Neill. The film was released on April 11, 1941, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Father Flanagan himself appeared in a separate 1938 MGM short, The City of Little Men, promoting Boys Town and giving a tour of its facilities. [5]

The actor Stephen McNally played Flanagan in a 1957 episode of the ABC religion anthology series, Crossroads . [6]

Father Flanagan received many awards for his work with the delinquent and homeless boys. Pope Pius XI named him a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor in 1937. He served on several committees and boards dealing with the welfare of children and was the author of articles on child welfare. Internationally known, Father Flanagan traveled to the Republic of Ireland in 1946, where he was appalled by the children's institutions there, calling them "a national disgrace"; his observations raised negative comments against him in the Irish press and the Oireachtas, and he was forced to leave the country. [7] [ better source needed ] He made a similar trip to Japan and Korea in 1947 to study child welfare problems, as well as to Austria and Germany in 1948. While in Germany, he died on 15 May 1948 of a heart attack. He is interred at Dowd Memorial Chapel of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Boys Town, Nebraska.


Fr. Edward J. Flanagan statue, Ballymoe, Co Galway Fr. Edward J. Flanagan Statue.jpg
Fr. Edward J. Flanagan statue, Ballymoe, Co Galway

In 1986, the United States Postal Service issued a 4¢ Great Americans series postage stamp honoring him. Father Flanagan is a member of the Nebraska Hall of Fame.

On 25 February 2012, the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska opened the canonization process of Father Flanagan. At a 17 March 2012 prayer service at Boys Town's Immaculate Conception Church, he was given the title, "Servant of God", the first of three titles bestowed before canonization as a Catholic saint. The investigation was completed in June 2015, and the results forwarded to the Vatican. If the Vatican approves the local findings, Flanagan would be declared venerable. The next steps would be beatification and canonization. [8]

There is a portrait statue dedicated to Fr. Edward J. Flanagan in Ballymoe in County Galway.

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  1. "Mercy! Mercy". Time . 7 December 1931. Retrieved 21 June 2007. He was Father Edward J. Flanagan. Father Flanagan was born in Roscommon, Ireland, 45 years ago.
  2. "Roscommon Census, 1901". leitrim-roscommon.com.
  3. "History Ireland". History Ireland.
  4. Clooney, Nick (November 2002). The Movies That Changed Us: Reflections on the Screen. New York: Atria Books, a trademark of Simon & Schuster. pp. 212–213. ISBN   0-7434-1043-2.
  5. The City of Little Men, TCM Extras (formerly One Reel Wonders), 10 May 2013.
  6. "Stephen McNally". Internet Movie Data Base . Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  7. "A History of Neglect". paddydoyle.com. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  8. "Sainthood effort: Omaha Archdiocese completes investigation of Boys Town founder Father Flanagan". Omaha.com.

Further reading

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