Flanagan’s On Main Namesake Up for Sainthood

PARK CITY, Utah – Flanagan’s On Main is not only celebrating the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday and its captivating history, but the canonization process (the formal process by which the Catholic Church declares a person to be a saint and worthy of universal veneration) of its namesake, Father Edward J. Flanagan and his efforts to create an inclusive orphanage for boys now known globally as “Boys Town.”

On July 22, 2019, 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 canonization of Father Flanagan took a step forward. The positio, or official position paper, is a summary of the volumes of records sent to the Vatican by the Archdiocese of Omaha in 2015. These records argue that Father Flanagan demonstrated heroic virtue in his life and was thus worthy of being declared Venerable by the pope.

“I am providing some of my grandfather’s stories and some of his artifacts,” said John Kenworthy, owner of Flanagan’s On Main. “I had recorded my grandfather, for many, many, hours back in the ‘80s and ’90s. So, to have these stories told in Grandpa’s voice is really cool. I also have letters he wrote back and forth to Father Flanagan. I kept everything. When I found out a couple of years back that he was up for sainthood, I was surprised by the moment, not the honor. I went straight to my storage yard and searched for those old boxes. Now he’s about halfway through [the process], but we need miracles.”

Father Edward Flanagan (left) and Charles Kenworthy’s (right) story was immortalized by the 1938 Hollywood film Boys Town starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney.

Miracles are one of many steps required in the Catholic process of canonization. Miracles are heavily documented and investigated and must be “something that has occurred by the grace of God through the intercession of a Venerable, or Blessed which is scientifically inexplicable,” according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Acquiring miracles can be accomplished by praying to the person for help, in this case, Father Flanagan.

“Father Flanagan needs people to pray to him and have two miracles certified by the Vatican to get him over the goal line,” said Kenworthy. “This truly was a great man that created a home for every race, creed, and color (started in Dec. 1917) way before our civil rights movement. He made an impactful difference in America’s journey and, of course, my family’s.”

Before any canonization process was begun for Flanagan, Kenworthy opened Flanagan’s On Main in 2008 to honor the history and journey of his grandfather Charles Kenworthy and the holy man that led the way.

In the early 1900s, a troubled 10-year-old lad named Charles Kenworthy traded in his tragic unhappy life for that of a hobo, traveling the rails to wherever the train tracks led. Concerned for the young boy’s well-being (and their liability), the Union Pacific railroad management couldn’t manage to outsmart Kenworthy and keep him off the dangerous rail lines.

Serendipitously, Father E. J. Flanagan, an Irish Catholic priest in Omaha, Nebraska, started an orphanage for boys around this same time. Progressive for the era, the orphanage welcomed boys of all races and religions. While the Catholic Church extended little help, Union Pacific and others heard of his endeavors and offered financial support if Father Flanagan proved himself through the reform of Kenworthy and other wayward and abandoned boys.

Father Flanagan was successful in Kenworthy’s remediation, and young Kenworthy became known as “The Boy Orator” while marketing the new orphanage around the country. His heartfelt speeches were so effective that although the nation suffered economic distress, The Boy Orator’s pleas loosened tight purse strings for Father Flanagan’s mission.

One of hundreds of newspaper clippings about the Boys Town Troupe, Father Flanagan, and Charles Kenworthy.
One of hundreds of newspaper clippings about the Boys Town Troupe, Father Flanagan, and Charles Kenworthy.

Father Flanagan amassed a troupe of young boy performers around Kenworthy and traveled the country generating publicity and fundraising for his orphanage. They stopped in Park City throughout the 1920s and performed on Main Street at the Federal bandstand in 1924 – directly across from Flanagan’s today.

Kenworthy is grateful for Father Flanagan and is hopeful the Vatican will confirm Father Flanagan’s life work with his canonization. He credits Flanagan’s work with his very existence.

In celebration of the Irish holiday, Flanagan’s will have half-off Irish fare Monday, March 14 through Wednesday, the 16, for lunch. On Thursday the 17, it will only serve Irish food, with giveaways every hour for prizes like speakers, skis, snowboards, televisions, and AirPods. Bagpipers will play throughout the day, and live music goes from 2 – 9 p.m., after which a DJ will take over until 1 a.m. And is it really St. Paddy’s Day without green beer and Guinness? Flanagan’s will be serving up both to celebrate.

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