Boys Town: The Making of a Saint Father Flannagan

boys town statue

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Restoring hope in humanity, for families, local communities, the world, and, more importantly, the at-risk children and youth of society was the emblem that has built the Boys Town Foundation. The mission began as “Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home” in 1917, as the founder, Father Edward J. Flanagan, had a passion for helping and serving. He had the desire to create this organization in a bid to help and care for the needs of at-risk children that were in his reach. Since the time of its establishment up to 2010, there were a total of about 745 occupants in the Omahan suburb. The first image and logo to be displayed by the organization were that of a boy carrying a younger one on his back with the caption “He ain’t heavy Father, he’s my brother.” This logo was adopted as it spelled the true meaning of what the organization was created for…to be a source of help and comfort for those in need.

boys town statue

There are many of my generation (let’s just say 50 plus) that remember that black and white movie covering these real life events of Father Flanagan, so a pilgrimage, of sorts, to Boys Town is certainly something that should be on the agenda when near Omaha. There are self guided tours and even maps – but it is free to visit. Trust me, the more you see and read, the more you will wish you had a box of Kleenex on you. It is an amazing testament to the power of one person: how we all have the potential to make a long-lasting difference on society.

Boys Town Sign

My two biggest tips for visiting Boys Town:

You really need to see the Hall of History and the Dowd Chapel. The Hall of History walks you through the one hundred years of Boys Town history from the meager beginnings to the current times. You learn of Father Flannagan’s struggles for finances, to self promotion, the evolution of the times, and so much more.

the aisle inside down chappel of boys town
Just look at this aisle that goes down the center of the Dowd Chapel! I cannot help but wonder how many owners of the young feet that traversed this walkway had their lives changed here…

As for Dowd Chapel? The stained glass takes your breath away. The pipe organ is unmatchable with 3573 pipes, and I was lucky enough to hear someone practicing during my visit.  It. Was. Amazing.

Dowd chappel of boys town

Boys Town: The Making of a Saint

Boys Town is a known village in Omaha, Nebraska, that has drawn the attention of millions worldwide because of the works they have been doing. As he ministered throughout the region to the homeless and the less fortunate, Father Flanagan got inspired by their strength and will-power to keep alive amidst the circumstances they faced. He developed a deep passion and interest, especially in the young and wanted to be a driving force for good in helping them to achieve a better and more stable future. Becoming productive members of society was the intended goal he wished to gain, and that was the goal he set.

The organization certainly went through its fair share of criticisms and lack of support from some larger entities, but that didn’t deter Father Flanagan from what he set out to accomplish. He still pushed and fought for inner peace and happiness for the young and vulnerable.

the boy of today

Father Flanagan’s Life & Journey

Born in Ireland, Flanagan grew up his humble parents who were of Christian background and tradition. He would later move to the United States in 1904, where he furthered his education to attain a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master of Arts Degree. Father Flanagan also went to various international universities where, after completing, he was ordained as a Catholic Priest (1912) and given the role of an assistant pastor in O’Neill, Nebraska. Later on, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where his real mission became a reality and still present up to this day.

statues of school choir boys at boys town

As he shared the gospel, he was propelled by God to start a home for homeless boys, which he did in 1917. Of course, it was no easy feat, but the support of Bishop James Harty (who initially had misgivings), was given. However, the foundation started to expand, and due to inadequate spacing, he had to relocate about 10 miles west of the original location. This community had its schooling system, gymnasium, post office, chapel, and other facilities that enabled residents to feel at home, and boys could at least receive a proper education. Father Flanagan never believed in the “bad boy” persona and thought everyone could change with the right help and direction.

boys town museum
The Hall of History is a must-visit stop when you are at Boys Town. It is an incredible museum and documentation of the one hundred years it has been around.

His Rise to Fame & Legacy

Father Flanagan’s works were applauded by many, which led to support for the ministry and actions of the Father. In 1938, there were releases of many films and short documentaries detailing the life and works of the priest, which helped him become recognized on a broader scale. Many persons who never knew of the mission were able to understand why he did what he did and the positive results and impact it had on society. His life was helping, and this was what won him several awards and recognition during his lifetime.

boys town interactive campus tour sign

But as the journey continued, God had better plans for him, and so he left this life on May 15, 1948, at the age of 61. But his legacy continues and lives on as the foundation as expanded its wings into not only helping vulnerable boys and children. Their charity works are beyond the walls of Omaha but all around the world.

Flanagan has earned his place in the Nebraska Hall of Fame and was also honored on 4¢ Great American series postage stamps by the United States Postal Service.

father flanagan

As his legacy lives on, the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, opened on February 25, 2012, the canonization process of Flanagan. In the three-step process to becoming a Saint, Flanagan earned the passed the first on March 17, 2012, with the title, “Servant of God.” Then in June 2015, a further investigation was done, and if approved by the Vatican, he would clear the next phase of Sainthood and be declared venerable. The journey to Sainthood by Father Flanagan has decorated with will-power, determination, passion, perseverance, and commitment.

music made over the years at boys town

To say what started well over 100 years ago and to still be alive today is a genuine cause and one to be preserved. The future of this country are the youth of today – making them as amazing as possible is our only hope. Boys Town does this well, just walk through their halls of history in the museum and learn about the contributions many of their former residents went on to share with their country.

largest ball of stamps

For those of you who love quirky roadside attractions, Boys Town is home to the largest ball of stamps! It makes for a great selfie and is cool to know that all stamps were applied by the actual residents of Boys Town.

Great Visitor Tip:

The Omaha Savings Pack gives visitors more $300 in exclusive discounts to top Omaha attractions. With nothing to download, the Savings Pack will be instantly delivered via text and email and allows for easy mobile redemption.

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