Saintly Work

Saintly Work

Professor compiles biography for sainthood

Somewhere in the Vatican right now resides one of the latest research contributions of Heather Fryer, PhD, director of Creighton’s American Studies Program and the Fr. Henry W. Casper, SJ Professor of History.

Fryer spent three years quietly researching and writing on the Rev. Edward J. Flanagan, the Roman Catholic priest who in 1917 founded Boys Town, an organization for at-risk children and families based in Omaha. As part of the long and arduous process of Fr. Flanagan’s candidacy for sainthood, Fryer’s charge was to separate the legend from the man.

Fryer received a request in 2012 from the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion, the organization backing Fr. Flanagan’s sainthood, to serve on a historical commission for the priest’s beatification and canonization.

In 2015, Fryer wrapped up her portion of the biography, which detailed Fr. Flanagan’s life beginning with his emigration from Ireland to the U.S. in 1904. The Rev. Gerard Cryan, a history teacher at Summerhill College in Sligo, Ireland, where Fr. Flanagan attended secondary school, worked on the priest’s early years.

The biography went into one of four huge boxes that were wrapped and sealed by Omaha Archbishop George Lucas. On May 15, the 69th anniversary of Fr. Flanagan’s death, the Vatican announced that the case presented by the Father Flanagan League was “complete and without error,” giving rise to a decree of validity.

“All we can do now is wait,” Fryer said.