From the Director
In late 1917, Fr. Edward Galvin landed in New York and began a long trek across the country in search of a suitable location for the U.S. headquarters of the Missionary Society of St. Columban. At the same time, another Irish priest, Fr. Edward Flanagan, who had already ministered for several years in Nebraska, began earnestly searching for a suitable residence for poor and homeless boys. Within six months both priests were to find a home for their fledgling organizations in Omaha. During the following decades the story of Columban missionaries and the story of Boys Town would intersect not only in Omaha, but also in Kumamoto, Japan.
In 1947 Fr. Flanagan visited Japan where he witnessed the devastation caused by World War II. There he was moved with pity in particular for the many children who had been left orphaned or destitute. At that same time, moved also by the great suffering of their people, some Japanese bishops invited Columban missionaries to come and minister to them.
Among the Columbans who arrived in Japan soon afterwards was Fr. George Bellas. A native of New Jersey, he had attended the Columban seminary outside Omaha, where he had become familiar with Boys Town. Like many of his fellow countrymen who were U.S. servicemen in Japan at that time, the sight of so many boys who had been orphaned or left homeless by the war saddened him greatly. Some of these servicemen pooled their personal resources and used their military positions to obtain a site and construct a Boys Town facility in the city of Kumamoto. In May 1955, with Fr. Bellas as the director, the facility opened its doors to 32 boys.
During the following two decades, Fr. Bellas devoted himself tirelessly to hundreds of Boys Town residents. His firm yet kind approach earned him the love and respect of those in his care. Thanks to the continuing generosity of U.S. servicemen in Japan as well as Columban supporters back home, he was able to provide them not only with a safe place to live, but also equip them with trades and skills so that one day they would be able to contribute to the rebuilding of their country.
In 1976 Boys Town in Kumamoto was taken over by the Chauffailles Sisters, who changed the name to Garden Of Angels. However, when Fr. Bellas died in 1990, the Sisters facilitated part of his cremains being buried in the cemetery there, close to his extended Boys Town family that is scattered across the surrounding district.
This year, as Boys Town celebrates its centennial, we give thanks to God for the abundant fruit that grew from the seed sown by Fr. Flanagan in Omaha in 1917.