Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pastoring the People of This Parish

Armed with a list of names of the siblings of Father Patrick M. Flannigan—and grateful for the bonus of the relatively less-common “Agatha” amidst those oft-repeated Irish naming traditions—I had thought it would be a simple task to locate this priest’s family heritage.

How wrong I was.

Oh, it’s not that I can’t locate R. C. Flannigan or Agatha Flannigan among the many online resources for governmental records—and I’ll get to writing about that in the next few days.

It’s just that I can’t juxtapose Patrick with those other names. In fact, if it weren’t for this listing found among Agnes Tully Stevens’ personal papers, I wouldn’t be able to document Patrick’s position in that family constellation anywhere within the past fifty years.

There will be time enough to write about Father Flannigan’s brothers John and R. C., as well as his spinster sister, Agatha. While I am still searching for that smoking gun of relationship, though, let’s start with what we can find about the Reverend, himself.

The very last segment of the newspaper clipping from Agnes Tully Stevens’ collection concludes with a focus on the priest, and I’d like to follow suit—except that, despite having this article and confirmation via his death certificate, I cannot even find a record of his burial, as planned, in Marquette, Michigan. Nor can I locate any obituary.

Thankfully, the man’s reputation long outlasted him. A February 20, 1955, Southtown Economist article about his church’s ninetieth anniversary uncovers more details on his ministry.

Back in 1877—and in the midst of a church building project—the Rev. P. M. Flannigan stepped into the role of pastor of St. Anne’s Church on the south side of Chicago. Guiding the building project to completion, Father Flannigan and his parish dedicated the new building on July 11, 1880. By the time of the 1955 anniversary celebration, the building had become one of the oldest churches still standing in the city, but when Father Flannigan had first arrived, the area was wild prairie, sparsely dotted with small cottages.

Under the guidance of Father Flannigan, other building projects were also completed, including the addition of a new rectory, convent and grade school. The once-rural area, eventually growing into a bustling residential center, fueled that growth, turning St. Anne’s into one of Chicago’s largest parishes.

In the thirty years that Patrick M. Flannigan served as pastor at St. Anne’s Church, he not only provided spiritual leadership to a thriving church body, but also participated in community issues of his day, including some, like the political questions regarding building elevated railroad tracks in the area, which puzzled me—until I discovered more about his family.

By the time of his death in 1907, Father Flannigan was personally known by a wide variety of notables from Chicago, even up to President William McKinley. Among the honorary pall bearers at his funeral were then-Governor of Illinois Charles S. Deneen, Chicago meat-packing magnate J. Ogden Armour, and U. S. Senator and part-owner of the Chicago Tribune, Medill McCormick.

So much more can be said for Father Flannigan’s leadership in the pastorate of St. Anne’s church. Seeing how that parish figures so prominently in the lives of the Tully and Stevens families, we’ll revisit this topic later.

For now, taking in the concluding remarks in Agnes’ newspaper clipping gives a glimpse of the respect afforded the pastor from his peers in the ministry.

Praise for Dead Priest.
            Father Maurice J. Dorney, pastor of St. Gabriel’s church, paid tribute to Father Flannigan this afternoon, declaring that the priest was one of the most loved churchmen of Chicago.
            “Father Flannigan’s action in leaving the bequest for the masses for souls in purgatory was typical of all good catholics,” he said. “When a catholic dies there is usually such a provision in the will, but not always for so large a number of masses.”


  1. It looks like Patrick was one of the old(er/est) son(s). RC was born in Michigan about the time Patrick was already active as a Priest. Looks like one of those cases where "people go missing" due to the timing of the census/marriage/birth/immigration. We need a Michigan census from around 1850... :)

    I couldn't connect Patrick to RC either. Patrick would have been born just before his father came to the US as a source claims he '[e]migrating to the United States in the "forties,"'

  2. James and Ellen Flannigan "To them thirteen children were born, ten sons and three daughters."

    Oy. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...