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Monsignor Edward Joseph Flanagan (1886 – 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.

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

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.

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".

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."

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.

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

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

Father Flanagan received many awards for his work with 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. 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.

On July 14, 1986, he was accorded the ultimate commemorative honor when the U.S. Postal Service held a first day of issue ceremony for its new four-cent definitive stamp honoring Father Flanagan at Boys Town, 100 years after his birth in Ireland. The priest had a hand in creating the Two Brothers statue in 1941 which illustrates boys helping each other after seeing a newspaper photograph of home resident Howard Loomis in the act of conveying fellow student Jim Edwards on his back. The original statue done in soft sandstone with its poignant wording, "He ain't heavy, Father...he's m' brother" became the facility symbol and is today housed at Boys Town. In October 2001, two identical life-size bronze statues of Father Flanagan were created by sculptor Fred Hoppe. One was erected at Boys Town and the second was placed in Ballymore, Ireland, the birthplace of the reformer priest.

On February 25, 2012, the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska opened the canonization process of Father Flanagan. At a March 17, 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.

Additional Information
Date of Birth 22nd Jul 1886 VIEW SOURCE
Date of Death 15th May 1948  
Father (First Name/s and Surname) John Flanagan (c.1836) of Leabeg, son pf Patrick Flanagan married 05-Feb-1872 in Roscommon Church VIEW SOURCE
Mother (First Name/s and Maiden) Honoria Larkin (c.1850) of Ballygaldy, daughter of James Larkin married 05-Feb-1872 in Roscommon Church VIEW SOURCE
Townland born Leabeg, Drumatemple, Ballymoe, Co Roscommon.  
Names of Siblings Mary Jane 30-Oct-1872 Ellen 28-Jun-1874 Catherine 26-May-1876 Patrick 7-Jul-1878 James 28 Apr 1880 Susan 20-May-1882 Brigid 6-Jul-1884 Honor 13-Sep-1888 Teresa 29 Mar 1891 Michael Joseph 7 Oct 1894 VIEW SOURCE
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References

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