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Father Flanagan Email Series: Issue 5

A Life Ended Too Soon

Upon his return to the United States, Father Flanagan presented his report, “Children of Defeat” to President Harry S. Truman. He recommended the creation of a foster home system in Japan and offered suggestions for avoiding corruption in the orphanage system.

President Truman was so impressed with Father’s work in Asia on behalf of the orphaned children, that he requested Father Flanagan conduct a similar tour in Europe. So, on March 5th, 1948, still exhausted after weeks in Asia, Father Flanagan set sail for England with his final destinations being Austria and then Germany. Prophetically, Father Flanagan shared with close associates that he felt upon leaving, he would never see Boys Town again. But he knew the youth of Europe needed an advocate.

In Berlin, on the night of May 14th, Father Flanagan awoke to chest pains. He was rushed to a military hospital, where he passed away at 2 a.m. on the morning of May 15, 1948. Father Flanagan was just 62. The news spread like wildfire across the globe that the kindly priest had died in service to the orphans of the world.

In accordance with Father Flanagan’s wishes, his body was flown home to Boys Town, after a memorial service was held at the Holy Rosary Church in Berlin. Memorial services were also held in Japan.

The World Mourns Father Flanagan

The children at Boys Town had heard of Father’s passing on the radio and gathered to pray for their mentor in the Dowd Chapel. Days later, men and boys from across the United States returned home to Boys Town to bid farewell to their beloved Father. So many returned that two masses had to be said to accommodate all those who came to say goodbye.

The Work Continues

Father Flanagan was interred in the former baptistry of the Dowd Chapel, where Boys Town residents and visitors can still pay their respects today. It’s been over 100 years since Father Flanagan founded Boys Town and all of those who work to further his mission are dedicated to “changing the way America cares for children and families” for another hundred years. 

The Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion is a group of lay people who banded together to venerate and pray for intersession from Father Flanagan. On March 17, 2012, the Archbishop of Omaha declared Father Flanagan a Servant of God and opened his cause for Sainthood with officials in Rome at the League’s behest.

Father Edward J. Flanagan's visionary work ended with his passing in Berlin, but his spirit and mission live on. Boys Town continues to embody his belief that "There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking." Today, Boys Town stands as a testament to his life’s work, forever changing the landscape of child care and continuing to offer hope and healing to many.

Thank you for joining us on this journey through the indomitable life of Father Flanagan. 

When you help a child today, you write the history of tomorrow.

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

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