Thursday, 13 November 2014

Cross-Atlantic journeys of Lawrence Flanagan

Ship’s manifest, S.S.,Oceanic
September 1908
On 10 September 1908 a clergyman named Lawrence D Flanagan, aged 30, set sail from Queenstown in Ireland on the S.S. Oceanic bound for New York.  His last place of residence was Terenure College in Dublin.
On 10 October 1912, Lawrence Flanagan was sailing again between Queenstown and New York, this time on the S.S. St Paul. Again his age was recorded as 30. On top of his name there is a stamp stating that he was a non immigrant alien and his permanent address was Otisville, America. His father’s name and address was recorded as Patrick Flanagan, Moate, Ireland.

Arrival in New York 1912
On 15 October 1914 a man named Reverend Lawrence Flanagan sailed to New York from Queenstown (Cobh) in Ireland on a White Star Liner ship called Adriadic. The 31 year Irish clergyman travelled 2nd class to the USA.

Queenstown to New York
15 October 1914
On 17 November 1919, 37 year old Reverend Lawrence Flanagan travelled from New York to Ireland on the Columbia (a ship of the Anchor Line that sailed between New York and Glasgow). Reverend Flanagan disembarked at Moville in County Donegal). He was an American citizen though his address was given as Moate, Westmeath.

Above: November 1919 Flanagan
arrived at Moville from New York
In January 1920 it appears that the same 37 year old clergyman named Rev. Lawrence Flanagan was a passenger again on the Columbia which travelled from Londonderry to New York. He was again described as a US Citizen.

January 1920 he returns to New York from
Londonderry having visited his family in Moate
In June 1923 Lawrence Flanagan applied to the Department of State in Washington for a new passport which was issued on the 26 June. On his passport application he said that he was born in Moate, Ireland on 19 June 1881 and that his father was named Patrick Flanagan who resided in Ireland. Lawrence said that he emigrated to the United States in September 1908, sailing from Southampton and that he had resided for over 14 years, uninterrupted at New York City from 1908 to 1923.

On this application form he said that he had become a naturalized citizen of the United States before a New York court on 8 February 1917 as shown by his  Certificate of Naturalization. He also said that he had resided outside of the US in Ireland for a period of 2 months in 1919. He said that his permanent residence was St Albert’s College at Middleton, New York.

Lawrence said that his last passport was obtained from New York on 13 June 1921 and was lost. He added that he was about to go abroad temporarily and intended to return within 6 months, with the purpose of visiting his father in Ireland. His sailing was booked on board the President Adams on 5 July 1923.

On his application Lawrence Flanagan said he was 41 years old. 6 feet 2 inches tall, with grey eyes, a long nose, medium mouth and forehead, dark brown hair with a scar above his right eyebrow. An identification reference was given by Denis O’Connor, a clergyman residing at 338 East 29 Street who had known Lawrence for 15 years.  

Finally on the application there was a statement in his own hand writing:

This is to certify that I Lawrence Denis Flanagan got a passport in August 1919. This passport was cancelled in 1921. In 1921 I got another passport but did not use it as the necessity of my going to Ireland had ceased. This passport I left in my house at 338 East 29th Street, New York City. In 1922 I went to live in Middleton, New York and when I looked for the passport I could not find it. I made a thorough search in 338 East 29th Street, New York City, and also at St Albert’s College, Middletown where I now reside, but could not find it. If at any time I get the passport of 1921 I promise to send it to Washington.

Lawrence Flanagan

On July 15th 1923 Lawrence Flanagan arrived at Queenstown, Ireland on the President Adams from New York via Boston. The 41 year old clergyman was heading for 56 Aungier Street and he claimed to be a US subject.

56 Aungier Street is the Dublin address of the Carmelite priory adjacent to their Whitefriar Place church and buildings.

On 11 August 1923 a clergyman named Laurence Flanagan, aged 48 was a passenger on the President Poyke sailing from the port of London to New York via Cherbourg and Queenstown. His last address was the Carmelite Convent, Ireland so he probably embarked at Queenstown not at London. He was classed as a US citizen.

Arrival at Queenstown in 1923, bound for the
Carmelite priory at 56 Aungier Street, Dublin
Whitefriars, Dublin

August 1923 Flanagan sails
back to New York from Ireland
On 12th December 1931 a passenger named Lawrence Flanagan, a priest, sailed from Liverpool to New York on the Sythia (Cunard Line). Lawrence Flanagan was 49 years old and a citizen of the US. His last address was given as Carmelite Church, Whitefriars, Dublin. He was not on his own on the ship, his fellow passenger was 63 year old Peter Magennis, also a priest from the Carmelite Church at Whitefriars.

We have previously mentioned the name of Magennis in the story above about him inviting Flanagan to accompany him to the 1928 Eucharistic Congress in Australia. 

December 1931, Flanagan travels with
Peter Magenis from Liverpool to New York

In 1937 a clergyman named Lawrence Flanagan travelled to New York from Southampton on The Manhattan. He was a US citizen and his address in England was given as 7 Haymarket, SW1. He was 58 years old.

1937 he sails from Southampton
to New York on the Manhattan.

Dionysius L. Flanagan: The Man and His Manner

The Carmelite Church, Moate
In one of his extensive online histories of the New York Carmelites, Carmel in New York, The Province of St. Elias 1927 – 1947, Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm provides this detailed overview of the work and character of Father Lawrence Flanagan:

A decree of September 3, 1926, appointed Dionysius Lawrence Flanagan the Commissary General of the five houses that had been separated some four years previously from the Irish Province.1 The motherhouse of Our Lady of the Scapular on East 28th Street, Transfiguration Church in Tarrytown, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and its missions in Middletown, St. Simon Stock in the Bronx and St. Albert's, Middletown, were the extent of the realm. Flanagan had come to the United States in 1908, shortly after his ordination, and had the experience of living in all of the houses before he assumed command.

Born in Moate, Ireland, on June 19, 1882, Flanagan went to Blackrock College, Dublin in 1897. After two years as a student there, two Carmelites, Wheatley and McDonnell, came to see him, having heard that he was interested in studying for the priesthood. In September of 1899, he transferred to Terenure College and entered the novitiate on October 15, 1900. After studying theology in Ireland, Flanagan was ordained a priest on March 17, 1907,

In September, 1908, he came to New York to work at 28th Street. 1910 found him at Tarrytown where he supplied on the weekends at the missions then attached to the Wurtsboro parish of St. Joseph. That fall, he was made pastor of the parish of Holy Name in Otisville and when the headquarters of the parish were moved to Middletown in 1912, Flanagan returned to Tarrytown as an assistant to Finbar O'Connor, From 1914 to 1922, he was at 28th Street, He was then sent to St. Albert's where he was prior and later novice master. At the death of Finbar O'Connor in 1924, he became the prior and pastor of 28th Street until the death of Gerard O'Farrell in 1926 when Flanagan was appointed Commissary General and moved to St. Simon Stock in the Bronx.

It seems that until he went out of office as provincial in 1943, Flanagan preferred to go by the name, Lawrence D. As the number entering the order increased and the use of religious names became more common, he used his religious name of Dionysius. To many outside the order, particularly those in Ireland who knew him as a youth, he was always Lawrence or Father Larry.

Inside of the Carmelite Church in Moate
There is an interesting story concerning Dionysius Flanagan that illustrates his politics and conviction. When some mission preachers were working St, Simon Stock, one of them stated one evening that only a fool would have voted for Norman Thomas, the Socialist candidate, in the recent presidential election. Thomas usually managed to garner a small handful of votes in each of the many runs he made for the presidency. On hearing this comment, Flanagan was heard to mutter, "I must be a fool for I always voted for him." Many Irish rebels were socialist in outlook and this shows his kinship with them. Also, it shows how he relentlessly followed a path once he chose it.

Dionysius Flanagan enjoyed good health throughout his life. He did have a prostate operation while visiting Los Angeles in 1934. Besides this, he was comparatively well especially during his retirement years in Williamstown. He died on April 3, 1966 of coronary thrombosis and arteriosclerosis.

Evaluation of Flanagan's regime as commissary general and provincial (1931 -43) vary from Carmelite to Carmelite. To many of his contemporaries, he was a stern taskmaster, strict and unrelenting. To others, he was the saviour of the small and budding province. One of his subjects and later a general of the order, Kilian Lynch, described how the first constitutions in many years had been issued in 1902. Previously, there had been little discipline due to the fact that customs, dating from the times of Catholic oppression in Ireland, had ruled the Irish Carmelites and their New York group. The new way of life that came in with the constitutions created many problems for superiors like Flanagan. He had to insist on the life dictated by the constitutions. This did not sit well with all of the men.

Order—Provence of St Elias,
North America
Flanagan gathered money to build up a fund from which building new foundations and student education could be provided. Flanagan himself, almost to the end of his days, worked as hard as he demanded of others. His sermons indicate that he often gave conferences, particularly to sisters, and preached many retreats. The length of his material indicates that he gave good value for the stipend he received.

When Flanagan became the commissary general, he fell heir to the Irish activities of his predecessors, O'Connor and O'Farrell. When these men were at the height of their activity, Flanagan was not stationed in New York City and thus at a disadvantage for participating. His espousing of the Irish cause perhaps dates to his days at Blackrock where he was a classmate of Eamon De Valera. His role, though, was not that of an activist or fomenter. He was more of an advisor who proceeded in a quiet and humble way.

He kept in close touch with many of the Irish heroes like De Valera, Sean O'Kelly and Sean Nunan. The MacSwineys were especially close to him. He was active, loaning for example, "O’Curry's manuscript copy of Keating’s Ireland" to New York's forty-second Street Library for a De Valera visit in 1939, interceding for Irish immigrants to obtain permanent residency or a job and contributed £20 to the 1938 election fund of Fianna Fail, When the Irish Pavilion of the 1938-39 World's Fair was dismantled, he purchased some exhibits and took the granite of the Pearse Memorial to use in the house he hoped to construct in Washington. Today, it still lies beneath the 28th Street church.

Flanagan's role can be seen in an incident. De Valera wrote Father Timothy Shanley concerning the Irish Press fund raising drive. He did this though only after consulting with Flanagan obtaining from him information and advice.

When religious activities were participated in by the Irish, Flanagan was present in a prominent role. He was the celebrant when Mass was celebrated for the preservation of peace and neutrality in Ireland. St. Patrick's Day, 1943, while Ireland lay in a perplexed neutrality, saw Flanagan as the preacher at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

After retirement to Williamstown in 1953, he exchanged a number of letters with Eamon De Valera mainly concerning the split in the United States between the De Valera and Cohalan forces in the 1920's. It was Flanagan's opinion to the aging Irish leader that the split was caused by the fact that the Cohalan forces could not control De Valera and what he thought best for Ireland.

One day in 1929, when Mother Angeline Theresa was in the process of consulting Cardinal Hayes about the foundation of the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm, Dionysius Flanagan went to the Old People's Home on East 183 Street in the Bronx to try and place an old man in the institution. He entered by mistake through the kitchen and met Mother Collette with whom he placed his request. Some days later, he sent the sisters roses left over from St. Simon Stock's celebration of the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. This gesture along with Flanagan's visit, the sisters took as a sign and introduced themselves and their goals to the Carmelites. It was in 1931 that the sisters were affiliated to the Carmelite Order. Ellas Magennis presented the petition to the Holy See after Flanagan had done the groundwork in the United States.Flanagan was always modest about his role in establishing the sisters and when forced to speak of it, he would tell of Magennis' work in Rome and the work of Kieran Hickey and Patrick Russell in working with the sisters on their constitutions.

Flanagan arranged a Roman visit for Mothers Angeline and Collette in 1932, enticing Magennis to escort them around Rome and to arrange a papal audience for them. He assisted the sisters by supplying priests for their retreats, conferences and confessions. He often gave them advice and did many business matters for the fledgling group. He tried to help them found a house in Rome but Cardinal Hayes withheld his approval. He was present for many of the community's ceremonies and attended the dedication of many of their homes.

Flanagan also corresponded with many sisters. Some were personal friends, some staffed Carmelite schools, some were from his hometown of Moate and some were his advisees. He advised sisters personally and community wise. He sent congratulations on special occasions, consoled them at the times of personal or community loss. Besides the Sisters of the Aged and Infirm, the Good Shepherd Sisters, the Sisters of Mercy and the Discalced Carmelites seem to be the communities he was more familiar with.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The background to the involvement of the New York Carmelites in the Irish Freedom Movement of the early 1900s

The original church of Our Lady of the Scapular of
Mount Carmel before demolition
The following excerpt is from Always Faithful. The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement by Alfred Isacsson, O. Carm.

This is one of four extensive history documents written by Isacsson which tell the history of the Carmelite order in New York. This document examines in greater detail than the other three the link between the New York Carmelites and the Irish freedom movement. There is some repetition of information between Isacsson’s documents, this one gives a useful background to their support of the movement in the early 20th century:

'     Our purpose is to tell only this New York Carmelites’ story and only this account in as scientific a manner as possible. We want to show the basis for the strong affection of the Irish for Carmelites. This intent precludes dealing with aspects of the Irish Freedom Movement that did not take place in New York or did not involve the Carmelites.

The Carmelites were involved in the supplying of arms. They acted as messengers between rebellious elements in Ireland and the United States. Their priories were safe house for men on the run and they generally ignored the excommunication and other ecclesiastical penalties placed on rebellious factions by the Irish bishops. I hope to show that the Carmelites were responsible in Ireland, Rome and the United States for the reinforcement of Irish culture and the growth of a revolutionary philosophy.

My start in this research began in Tarrytown, NY. In 1991, a parishioner of Transfiguration Parish named James Cunningham died. He was buried from that Tarrytown Church with his wife, daughter and two sons present with their families and many friends. As a young man in Ireland, he was involved in what he referred to as “the troubles.” When he came to the United States, he settled in Elmsford, a village some two or three miles from Tarrytown. He enrolled in the Carmelites’ Transfiguration parish and faithfully attended Mass there each Sunday despite the travel that was involved. He also closely associated with the Carmelites at Knollwood Country Club. When asked for an explanation of this, Jim used to reply that the Carmelites were present when we needed them, “they were always there.” He was, of course, referring to the time when he was “on the run” during the troubled years of Ireland. I was intrigued by Jim Cunningham’s devotion to the Carmelites and sought an explanation of this.

In The Irish Carmelites (Dublin, 1988), Peter O'Dwyer related that the Carmelites at Terenure College, Dublin, hid Michael Collins when he was on the run. This tradition of a refuge and a safe house existed at the New York Carmelites’ Priory of Our Lady of the Scapular located then on 29th Street just west of First Avenue. So many Republicans were sheltered there that many years later when the Jesuit, Daniel Berrigan, was on the run, the FBI had an agent observing the priory. Perhaps unrealized by the FBI, the agent was a former Carmelite seminarian.

When the Irish bishops supported the Free State by excommunicating and denying the sacraments to those who opposed it, the Carmelites and some other religious orders disregarded these restrictions. The Republicans came to the Carmelites’ Whitefriars Street Church, Terenure College and New York’s Our Lady of the Scapular to receive the sacraments.

When we speak throughout this book of the Carmelites being of a certain political stance, we usually are referring to the superiors whose function it was in those days of authority to be the spokesperson for the entire community. Those not in positions of authority did not have this opportunity and may not have agreed with what was presented as the Carmelite position. In most instances, the Carmelites backed the most liberal position and the one, they believed, the most conducive to the total independence of Ireland. When Ireland was totally under the crown, the Carmelites were anti-royalist; in the treaty era, the Carmelites were anti-treaty; later, they were not for simply a representative government but a republic. When finally there was a free state, the Carmelites supported the union of the six northern counties with the south, one united Ireland.

The public activities of the Carmelites working with the Friends of Irish Freedom and the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic were having Masses at their church to mark Irish occasions of joy and sorrow, speaking to Irish groups throughout New York City and making their hall an Irish centre by the generous policy of allowing Irish groups to use it. There were many Irish groups in New York City at that time and each seems to have had a stated purpose but they were all devoted in some measure to Irish freedom. This was accented in their dealings with the Carmelites.

There are also secret activities in that Peter Elias Magennis, the leader both by his position of authority and his activities, was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Ireland and the Clan na Gael in the United States. I feel that Denis O’Connor became a member of the IRB in 1916 when he was in Ireland for a provincial chapter. The Carmelites secretly supported the Republican side by money, arms, hospitality, a safe house and guidance. The leaders they associated with in the open part of their participation were many times the same people as those in the secret part. The Carmelites and their associates led two lives.

The involvement of the New York Carmelites in the Irish Freedom Movement was not generally known among the Carmelites in Ireland except for those who participated in it when they were in New York. For the Carmelites in Ireland not to know was part of the operation. Secrecy was an essential part of the movement. When I expressed this opinion to Carmelites in Ireland in 2001, one Carmelite remarked, “We don’t even know now.”

A shot taken inside the original Carmelite church of Our Lady
of the Scapular of Mount Carmel before demolition