The founder of Boys Town, Edward Joseph Flanagan (1886-1948) was born on this day in Roscommon County, Ireland, the son of Catholic farmers.
“The old-fashioned home with its fireside companionship, its religious devotion and its closely-knit family ties is my idea of what a home should be," he said.
As a child he was inspired by stories about the good works of St. Patrick and decided early on to become a priest. "I wanted to help people – spiritually – I wanted to teach people, and it was that desire that took hold of me and I never had any other desire at any time in my life.”
Ordained a Jesuit in 1912, he was assigned to a parish in Omaha where the need for social services was overwhelming. In helping the homeless, he learned that "neglected boys was what caused men to go bad and become neglected.”
In December 1917, with five homeless boys assigned to him by the courts, he borrowed $90 and rented a home in downtown Omaha, officially opening Father Flanagan's Boys' Home. The next year, he began publishing Father Flanagan's Boys' Home Journal each month. Residency at the Boys Home mulitplied.
“It costs so little to teach a child to love, and so much to teach him to hate," he said.
In 1921, he raised enough money to buy a farm ten miles west of the city and moved his Boys Home to where his kids could farm and play sports. By 1930, Fr. Flanagan was caring for 280 boys with plans to build a trade school and gym.
“The poor, innocent, unfortunate little children belong to us, and it is our problem to give them every chance to develop into good men and good women," he said.
In 1938, Spencer Tracy's Oscar-winning portrayal of Fr. Flanagan in the heartwarming film Boys Town brought more attention and resources to empower Fr. Flanagan's vision. He said, “Our country needs good men and good women who have learned to love God above all things, and their fellowman for the love of God.”
Let the goodness shine from your heart.