Lifestyle & Belief

Edward J. Flanagan, Boys Town founder, to be nominated for sainthood


Catholic faithful, including US Boy Scouts gathered in St. Peters's square at the Vatican, on October 11, 2009, as Pope Benedict XVI prepares to canonise five new saints, including a man who dedicated his life to lepers in Hawaii and another considered one of the greatest mystics of the 20th century.


Andreas Solaro

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha is mounting a campaign for sainthood for Father Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town.

The archdiocese will formally open the canonization process at a March 17 prayer service at Boys Town's Immaculate Conception Church, Reuters reported.

To reach sainthood, a candidate must first be beatified, which involves a thorough investigation of the his or her life, the Omaha World-Herald explained. It must also be determined that a miracle has occurred in connection with candidate after death.  

The OWH adds that: For the candidate to be declared a saint, the church must decide that two miracles can be connected to his or her intervention. 

The Catholic News Agency reported that Archbishop George Lucas started the process at the request of the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion, formed in 1999 to advocate Flanagan’s canonization.

Flanagan, born July 13, 1886 in Ireland, is best remembered for establishing the Omaha orphanage Father Flanagan's Boys Home in 1917.

The orphanage grew into a major provider for at-risk children and families, with Flanagan believing — according to the Reuters report — that every child could be a productive citizen if given love, a home, an education and a trade.

As his orphanage grew to hundreds of boys, he moved it to Overlook Farm on the outskirts of Omaha where it became known as the Village of Boys Town.

According to the Catholic News Agency: The boys elected their own government to run the community, which became an official village in the state of Nebraska in 1936.

Flanagan is quoted as saying, "There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking."

Flanagan's story was immortalized in in the Hollywood movie "Boys Town," in which Spencer Tracy won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Flanagan.