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father flanagan history

Father Flanagan Email Series: Issue 1

Welcome to Our Father Flanagan Inspirational Email Series

Father Flanagan learned many truths early in life at his family’s home in Leabeg, Ireland. Young Eddie, as the family called him, tended the family’s sheep and cattle, before and after walking to school beginning at age 6. His outlook on life was shaped by his idyllic surroundings, love of learning, 10 brothers and sisters and the guiding hand of his mother. 

At the tender age of 6, the village priest proclaimed that the thoughtful young lad would become a priest and upon hearing that “prophecy,” young Eddie began to study eagerly to do just that.

Today, we want you to meet for the Flanagan himself, the man who has created this new way of dealing with you. Thank you, Sam, and good afternoon everyone. 25 years ago, there was a terrible drought in the middle West That winter I saw the streets of Omaha filled with unemployed men.

Men who were out in the cold, men who were hungry and had no place to sleep. I opened a shelter for them, but soon | learned that many of these men sought a idle life rather than a life of work.

Tlearned that many of them had been homeless in their youth, and that gave me the idea that would be better to work with boys, homeless, neglected boys, who could still be turned into good American citizens.

I've always hated the cruel system, but neglects boys until they're forced into breaking the law and then fails to solve the problem by putting them in reformatories. From my experience, I have learned that reformatories do not reform because you can't reform a boy behind bars.

I never thought these boys needed reforming, but they did need a home, love, care, and education, and every chance to become worthwhile citizens like privileged boys. I've always believed that no boy wanted to be bad.

No boy needed reforming if only the adult society gave him half a chance. I am proud that thousands of these boys have already been given a new start in boys town and that not one of them has ever disproved the belief that is closest to my heart that there is no such thing as a bad boy.

The Seeds of a Mission Are Planted

In 1906, Edward Flanagan entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. A citadel of learning excellence, he loved his studies at Dunwoodie. The seminarians were given Wednesdays as a free day for community service. The future Father Flanagan spent his time with abandoned patients in a NYC tuberculosis ward, describing the great outdoors and city life to those who never left the infirmary. His own mother questioned this endeavor, given he had suffered from ill health since he’d been a small child.

But bringing joy to those forgotten patients brought him great happiness. He wrote letters for them, posted them at his expense and was always asking family for more writing supplies. But that happiness was to be short lived because a powerful case of double pneumonia at Christmastime left Edward in poor enough health that he was barely able to take his yearend exams, though he passed with stellar grades. After months in the infirmary, from Christmas until spring session ended, Edward was told that he had to leave to recover his health. This was crushing news for the young man who yearned to be a priest.

Determined to Be a Priest

For the next several years, young Edward Flanagan faced setback after setback on the road to the priesthood, yet he never gave up. His brother, Father Patrick Flanagan asked Eddie to join him in Omaha, Nebraska, where the Bishop of Omaha convinced him to transfer his studies to the Omaha diocese and then after a summer of recuperation, sent him to study in Rome.

But shortly after Christmas of that year, Edward collapsed again with lung ailments caused by the cold and damp Roman winter. The doctors’ verdict was clear: he needed to leave Rome immediately or risk dying of his lung problems. In 1908, he boarded the S.S. Cedrick for New York and from there joined his entire family in Omaha.

After a year of recuperation, Edward Flanagan received his doctor’s approval to resume his studies, and he was desperately eager to do so. The Omaha Archdioceses deferred sending him back to college, worried about his thrice failed health. But they agreed to cover his seminary expenses once he became a member of the diocesan clergy. So, the Flanagan family banded together and sent Edward back to school in Innsbruck Austria, where perhaps the mountain air would bolster his health.

Sprawling Irish Countryside

The fresh mountain air was indeed a tonic for Edward Flanagan’s tortured lungs. At the Royal Imperial Leopold Francis University of Innsbruck, he delved into his religious studies, as well as cutting-edge psychology, which would serve him well in his life’s master work. Edward Joseph Flanagan was ordained into the priesthood in July of 1912. With three education-stopping bouts of illness and three years of intense studying in Tyrol behind him, Father Flanagan headed home to Omaha, Nebraska on the S.S. Cincinnati an ordained priest.

father flanagan and boy

The man or woman who succeeds in life today or anytime must necessarily be a man or woman of strong character who will not falter or succumb to every obstacle that comes up.

Father Flanagan

Next Issue… on to Omaha and a new idea!

We’re still building Father Flanagan’s dream one precious child at a time.

Your donation holds the key to breaking cycles of adversity, offering hope, and nurturing dreams.