Fr. Edward Flanagan talks with a group of boys in this undated photo. CNS photo/courtesy Boys Town

Boys Town founder steps toward sainthood

  • August 6, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. -- The sainthood cause of Fr. Edward J. Flanagan — the founder of Boys Town — took a step forward July 22 with the presentation of the “positio” to the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, along with a letter of support from Omaha Archbishop George J. Lucas.

The “positio,” or official position paper, is a summary of the volumes of records that were sent to the Vatican by the Archdiocese of Omaha in 2015 and makes the argument that Fr. Flanagan demonstrated heroic virtue in his life, and thus is worthy of being declared venerable by the pope.

Boys Town was established  in 1917 in Nebraska as an orphanage for at-risk boys and has since grown to supplying support for families in nine U.S. locations. 

Fr. Flanagan was born in Ireland but emigrated to the U.S. in 1904. After founding Boys Town on his premise that “there’s no such thing as a bad boy,” he continued to work on child welfare causes around the world. He died in 1948 at age 61.

Lucas met with Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, prefect of the congregation, to personally endorse the step toward the eventual beatification and canonization of Fr. Flanagan.

The Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion is what is officially known as the “actors” for Fr. Flanagan’s cause for canonization. The league has devotees of this cause in 20 countries and has over 40,000 worldwide followers on Facebook.

When the Irish-born priest’s cause was officially opened in 2011, he was given the title of “servant of God.” The next step was the collection of documents about his life and ministry and the gathering of testimony gathered from dozens of witnesses who knew of his ministry. This is the material submitted to the Vatican in 2015 and now presented to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

There are three more phases to pass through before Fr. Flanagan can be declared “venerable.” First, the cause must be approved by the historical consultants of the congregation, then by the theological consultants and finally by the bishops and cardinals who are members of the congregation.

In general, two approved miracles attributed to the intercession of the candidate are needed for sainthood, one for beatification and the second for canonization.

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