Friday 21st June 2024

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Visiting Boys Town… Where A World Of Care For Troubled Youngsters Rose On Nebraska Plains

September 26, 2023 Frontpage No Comments



OMAHA — An Irish-born priest in Phoenix once recalled that when he and a young friend from the seminary in the Emerald Isle were told they were being assigned to Arizona, they got out a map. One of them was being sent to Phoenix, the other young priest to Tucson.
The two cities didn’t look far apart. The priests decided that on their days off, one of them could bike over to visit the other. They hadn’t noticed the scale of mileage on the map. Phoenix and Tucson are about 116 miles apart, hardly a distance for a morning’s quick bike ride, especially on a summer desert day.
Following God’s will can bring surprises, as also happened to another Irishman arriving in the United States. That would be Edward Flanagan, who emigrated to the United States in 1904, pursued seminary studies in Europe, then was ordained a priest in 1912 and returned to Nebraska.
Who would have dreamed that a quarter-century later, the work that this young Irish-born priest decided to pursue would result in a movie featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars having its world premiere on the plains of eastern Nebraska, in Omaha in 1938.
That would be the movie named after his pioneering work to provide non-punitive rehabilitation on a campus of youngsters outside Omaha, Boys Town, featuring Spencer Tracy as Fr. Flanagan himself and Mickey Rooney as a tough young kid who was reformed.
Visiting Omaha in late August, The Wanderer stopped by Flanagan’s two-story brick home, where the front parlor, his office, kitchen, and dining room are among exhibits of his life’s work, as well as a “Hall of History” museum, all set amid the daily activities of Boys Town today, located at the former Overlook Farm, where the program moved in 1921 after beginning in Omaha in 1917.
Flanagan, who became a U.S. citizen, believed there was no such thing as a bad boy if the youngster was given proper upbringing and support, but boys went bad due to such conditions as deprivation and cruelty.
In the movie, which has fictional elements, a condemned murderer rails against the plight he’d suffered as a youngster, homeless and in state institutions.
The morning after the movie premiere, the Omaha World-Herald reported on September 8, 1938: “Thirty thousand persons jam-packed all streets surrounding the Omaha Theater last night for a fleeting glimpse of a troupe of movie bigwigs who turned the city into Hollywood for a night. The city did more than imitate Hollywood for this — its first world movie premiere. It outdid Hollywood….
“While 110 policemen and 40 firemen worked strenuously but efficiently to keep the crowd in check, impatient persons who had stood in the middle of Douglas Street for more than two hours to see the event strained steel wires holding them back to near the breaking point,” the lengthy story added.
It said that Flanagan had made a special request to MGM Studios for the movie to receive its premiere before an Omaha audience.
Tracy received an Academy Award for his role as Flanagan, and the movie was a box-office money-maker, reportedly one of the most successful films of 1938, even though back in Hollywood there earlier was said to have been some concern that it lacked “sex appeal.”
Striking a modest note about portraying Flanagan when he received his Oscar, Tracy said, “If you have seen him through me, then I thank you.”
However, the Boys Town website says one flat note occurred when donations to Flanagan’s endeavor dropped drastically because the public mistakenly thought Boys Town was sharing in the movie’s financial rewards, and Tracy had to issue a statement to ask people to resume contributing.
After Flanagan’s ordination in 1912 and early service as a parish priest for the then-Diocese of Omaha, he was able to establish a hotel for poor workingmen and later said that he was told repeatedly, “It’s too late for me now, Father. If only someone had helped me when I was a boy.”
Bearing this in mind, in 1917 Flanagan borrowed $90 to pay a month’s rent on a building where he brought the first five residents of what would develop into Boys Town. He wrote later: “My first two boys came from the juvenile courts, and three others, whom I had been befriending in my own small way to keep their bodies and souls together, I picked up off the streets.”
An article at the website says Flanagan received permission to focus his efforts on this endeavor, with nuns assigned to help him, and soon there were 50 boys in their care, bringing about a move to larger quarters the following year, 1918, the abandoned German-American Home in Omaha, which had a capacity of 150 boys.
In late 1921 the move to Overlook Farm was accomplished, the article says, where “the boys raised some of their own food in a vegetable garden and had room for a baseball diamond, track, and football field. They planted corn, alfalfa, and potatoes, and tended their fruit orchard and vegetable garden. They also gathered milk from the cows.
“By March 1922, business and religious leaders and many Omaha residents had raised enough money to break ground for a new Boys Town structure,” the article says. “It was a five-story brick building, which would house the classrooms, dining hall, gym, dormitory, chapel, and infirmary.”
At the time the farm was 10 miles west of Omaha, but today the city has grown around it.
Boys Town willingly took in boys regardless of race or religion. As the project continued to grow, it had separate chapels to accommodate both its Catholic and non-Catholic residents, and sometimes encountered problems when its sports teams traveled elsewhere in days past and faced laws enforcing racial segregation.
As decades passed major changes occurred, including welcoming troubled girls to Boys Town, too, and replacing dormitory living with a number of family-style homes on the campus, each with a resident “family-teacher” married couple, even while the large majority of young people receiving attention no longer even lived there but were part of a Boys Town network of care.
Girls began living at Boys Town in 1979. Their presence reportedly even improved the behavior of the boys.
An article posted in May 2023 at the Boys Town website says: “The decision to welcome girls to Boys Town’s Family Home Program initially was met with much uncertainty and some resistance. But Fr. Robert Hupp, then Boys Town’s executive director, realized that young girls faced the same problems as boys, and that Fr. Flanagan’s mission had to include helping and caring for all children.
“Boys Town successfully weathered the storm of controversy that came with this new approach, and more and more girls were able to find success through our compassionate, family-style care,” the article says.
“Today, girls make up about half of the youth population that receives care in the Village of Boys Town and at several of our affiliate sites. Girls have served as the mayor and vice mayor of Boys Town, have excelled in academics, sports, music, art and leadership, and have represented the Home as inspirational ambassadors,” the Boys Town article says, adding:
“In 2017, during Boys Town’s Centennial celebration, a new statue depicting a boy carrying a girl on his back was dedicated on our Home Campus, joining our iconic ‘Two Brothers’ statue in symbolizing Boys Town’s commitment to helping children.”
The reference to the “Two Brothers” statue meant the logo with one youngster carrying a smaller one on his back and labeled, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s m’ brother.” Today, the smaller child is a pigtailed girl.
An article on the local-news first page of the August 25, 2023, Omaha World-Herald said that a growing emphasis at Boys Town on providing preventive services that focus on keeping families together “has been in line with trends in child welfare nationally.”
Rather than remove youths to institutional settings, the World-Herald article said, “Boys Town says today more than 90 percent of the youths it serves never set foot on the campus.”
The article also reported that Boys Town’s executive director, Fr. Steven Boes, announced his retirement from that post after serving since 2005. In a September 7 message posted at the Boys Town website, Boes said: “Fr. Flanagan believed that faith was integral to the healing process and that belief continues to guide us today.
“As the leader of Catholic worship here at Boys Town, it has been my honor to work alongside the other religious leaders on campus to foster a community that warmly welcomes all, regardless of religious beliefs, race or creed,” Boes said. “I will remain eternally grateful for those partnerships and the inclusive community that is, and always has been, Boys Town.”
Following WWII, President Harry Truman asked Flanagan, by then internationally known for child care, to visit parts of Asia and Europe to see what could be done for children orphaned and made homeless by that conflict. While in Germany in 1948, Flanagan died of a heart attack at age 61. He is interred at the Catholic chapel at Boys Town.
The Boys Town website features a number of Flanagan’s quotations. Here are a few:
“No race that does not take care of its young can hope to survive, or deserves to survive.”
“There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.”
“A true religious training for children is most essential if we are to expect to develop them into good men and good women — worthy citizens of our great country.”
“I have yet to find a single boy who wants to be bad.”
“I know when the idea of a boys’ home grew in my mind, I never thought of anything remarkable about taking in all of the races and all of the creeds. To me, they are all God’s children. They are my brothers. They are children of God. I must protect them to the best of my ability.”
“When parents fail to do their job, when they allow their children to run the streets and keep bad company, when they fail to provide them with good examples in the home, then the parents, and not the children, are delinquent.”
“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.”
“Without God at the beginning, there can be only confusion at the end.”

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1


Today . . .

Doctors urge U.S. medical groups to ‘immediately stop’ transgender treatments on children

Top medical groups and physicians have signed a “Doctors Protecting Children” declaration that expresses “serious concerns” about the treatment of minors who are uncomfortable with their biological sex, one advocate told EWTN News this week.  Jill Simons, the executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, told “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol on Thursday that the medical group has been “sounding the alarm” after the recently leaked files from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health in which…Continue Reading

Pedophile advocacy group praises Germany’s new law softening punishment for child pornography

(LifeSiteNews) — In 2010, Jan Flesichhauer and Wiebke Hollersen penned a chilling essay for Der Spiegel titled “How the Left Took Things Too Far.” “One of the goals of the German 1968 movement was the sexual liberation of children,” they wrote. “For some, this meant overcoming all sexual inhibitions, creating a climate in which even pedophilia was considered progressive.”   That climate involved discussions about whether sex with children might be healthy for the children and musings that this could…Continue Reading

Here’s Harrison Butker’s Full Speech Celebrating Pro-Life Christian Values

Some sports stars make headlines for drug abuse or acts of violence, but one football player is taking heat for publicly promoting Christian values. On Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker delivered the commencement at the Catholic Benedictine College, encouraging young graduates to stand firm in their faith and live out authentic Christian virtues. Now, the National Football League (NFL) is playing defense and condemning Butker’s speech as offensive. The NFL’s senior vice president and top diversity, equity,…Continue Reading

DeSantis declares Florida ‘will not comply’ with Biden rule forcing ‘gender identity’ on schools

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Florida “will not comply” with the Biden administration’s recently finalized rule forcing widespread recognition and accommodation of LGBT “identities” on the American education system, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis declared. In February, President Joe Biden’s U.S. Department of Education submitted to the U.S. Office of Management & Budget its finalized Title IX rule. Late last month, the administration published the rule, which expands the federal

U.S. birth and fertility rates drop to record lows, according to CDC report

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 26, 2024 / 16:45 pm Provisional data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week showed that the fertility rate in the United States hit a record low and the total number of births in the country was the lowest it’s been in decades.  According to the report, slightly fewer than 3.6 million babies were born in 2023, or 54.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15 through…Continue Reading

The King of Kings

Cindy Paslawski We are at the end of the Church year. We began with Advent a year ago, commemorating the time awaiting the coming of the Christ and we are ending these weeks later with a vision of the future, a vision of Christ the King of the Universe on His throne before us all.…Continue Reading

7,000 Pro-Lifers March In London

By STEVEN ERTELT LONDON (LifeNews) — Over the weekend, some seven thousand pro-life people in the UK participated in the March for Life in London to protest abortion.They marched to Parliament Square on Saturday, September 2 under the banner of “Freedom to Live” and had to deal with a handful of radical abortion activists.During the…Continue Reading

An Appeal For Prayer For The Armenian People

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on August 29, 2023, issued this prayer for the Armenian people, noting their unceasing love for Christ, even in the face of persecution.) + + On the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, having a few days ago celebrated the…Continue Reading

Robert Hickson, Founding Member Of Christendom College, Dies At 80

By MAIKE HICKSON FRONT ROYAL, Va. (LifeSiteNews) — Robert David Hickson, Jr., of Front Royal, Va., died at his home on September 2, 2023, at 21:29 p.m. after several months of suffering and after having received the Last Rites of the Catholic Church. He was surrounded by friends and family.Robert is survived by me —…Continue Reading

The Real Hero Of “Sound of Freedom”… Says The Film Has Strengthened The Fight Against Child Trafficking

By ANA PAULA MORALES (CNA) —Tim Ballard, a former U.S. Homeland Security agent who risked his life to fight child trafficking, discussed the impact of the movie Sound of Freedom, which is based on his work, in an August 29 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. “I’ve spent more than 20 years helping…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: This lesson on medical-moral issues is taken from the book Catholicism & Ethics. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. The email and postal addresses are given at the end of this column. Special Course On Catholicism And Ethics (Pages 53-59)…Continue Reading

Color Politics An Impediment To Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The USCCB is rightly concerned about racism, as they should be about any sin. In the 2018 statement Open Wide Our Hearts, they affirm the dignity of every human person: “But racism still profoundly affects our culture, and it has no place in the Christian heart. This evil causes great harm to its victims, and…Continue Reading

Trademarks Of The True Messiah

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this essay on September 2, and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + In Sunday’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.First: The Pattern That…Continue Reading

A Beacon Of Light… The Holy Cross And Jesus’ Unconditional Love

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON Each year on September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The Feast Day of the Triumph of the Holy Cross commemorates the day St. Helen found the True Cross. It is fitting then, that today we should focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life on the…Continue Reading

Our Ways Must Become More Like God’s Ways

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9Phil. 1:20c-24, 27aMatt. 20:1-16a In the first reading today, God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially when we look at what the Lord…Continue Reading

The Devil And The Democrats

By FR. DENIS WILDE, OSA States such as Minnesota, California, Maryland, and others, in all cases with Democrat-controlled legislatures, are on a fast track to not only allow unborn babies to be murdered on demand as a woman’s “constitutional right” but also to allow infanticide.Our nation has gotten so used to the moral evil of killing in the womb that…Continue Reading

Crushed But Unbroken . . . The Martyrdom Of St. Margaret Clitherow

By RAY CAVANAUGH The late-1500s were a tough time for Catholics in England, where the Reformation was in full gear. A 1581 law prohibited Catholic religious ceremonies. And a 1584 Act of Parliament mandated that all Catholic priests leave the country or else face execution. Some chose to remain, however, so they could continue serving the faithful.Also taking huge risks…Continue Reading