A Merry Christmas from Sharon Nelsen:
Greeting you with Father Flanagan's words, "Hello Dear," and some words from the writings of Jim Takahashi about Father Flanagan (I'll say a bit about my connection with Jim later:)
"When I arrived at Boys Town, Father Flanagan came up and greeted me, he hugged me, he was very, very loving. All the people in Nebraska were wonderful, we had friends who were Italians, Germans, all nationalities, and they didn't care what nationality we were. I was the supervisor of the grounds. I contacted many of the people I knew from the detention camp in Los Angeles and told them to come to Boys Town. With all their families, about 20 people came... My wife Margaret, was very popular with the boys, because most of these boys had no idea what a true mother was like, either. She would hug them, and boys need that. Many of the boys acted so tough, like they didn't care at all, but they all cared. They all wanted to be near Father Flanagan. Father Flanagan called everyone "dear," and he was a real father to each boy. He had candy in his pocket at all times, and he would hand this out to the kids. I never heard anyone call men "dear" like Father. Father Flanagan made you feel like you were his favorite, everyone was his favorite. He was radiant, you would look at him and just love him... When I returned to Los Angeles in 1947, I started landscaping and cutting trees in the San Fernando Valley. I have been a landscaper and gardener ever since. I specialized in building Japanese gardens for people.."I began working on the Father Flanagan cause for sainthood in 2001. Going through documents in the Hall of History was part of my work. When I came across this story of the Takahashi family, I realized this was Leona Takahashi's Dad. Leona and I had been classmates at Los Angeles Catholic Girls High School for four years. I did not know then that she had lived at Boys Town during the war years. The Takahashi family had to leave their home in Los Angeles and were detainees at Santa Anita Race Track stables when they heard about Fr. Flanagan's invitation to come and work at Boys Town. Leona's mother took the girls and new baby brother on the train to Omaha. Jim drove a truck carrying their possessions, and drove straight through from Los Angeles to Omaha as he feared for his life at any stops on the route. I think of the Takahashi's and their struggle whenever I walk beneath the sturdy, mature oaks Jim planted around the main historical area at Boys Town.
I send you this story at Christmastime, because, after more than ten years of working with Father Flanagan's boys and hearing so many stories of transformation, we are moving from the groundswell into the next phase of sainthood process. Our postulator, Dr. Andres Ambrosi, will be taking the cause to our Archbishop Lucas in mid-January of our New Year. If the Archbishop accepts the cause, the Diocesan Phase begins and Father Flanagan receives the title of Servant of God as the investigation of his life story proceeds.
Father Flanagan transformed lives and systems. In the early 1900's, he accepted boys of all races and creeds. This fact alone raised a clamor of opposition, so much so that he was motivated to move "way out" to Overlook Farm, which is now the National Headquarters of Boys Town. But the greatest transformation is the personal transformation each child who becomes part of the Boys Town family experiences, and how all of us are transformed in hope renewed by one person's efforts to do something about an unjust system.
If you'd like to know more about our work, you can check out our website, www.fatherflanagan.org where much of the material is available for downloading. Also, Father Flanagan's residence at Boys Town is decorated as an Irish Christmas and you might enjoy viewing that on the you-tube site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWhBhBcvkaI.
At this blessed time of New Life, John and I remember with gratitude the gift each of you are to us. Our prayer is that your hope, too, is renewed by the example of one person's conviction to do what he could to help transform the lives before him.
Christmas blessings of Hope to each of you and to all of your "dear" ones,
John and Sharon