Captain Flannery's legacy

Captain John Flannery.

At the age of 15, Flannery left his home in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland fleeing the famine and pestilence of his native land. 

He served at Fort Pulaski and later as commander of Lee Battery on the Savannah River. He was discharged at Augusta on May 15, 1865 and returned to Savannah. 
In 1870, Flannery and several business associates applied for, and were granted, a charter to start the Southern Bank of the State of Georgia. 
Ignatius Persico the fourth Bishop of Savannah initiated plans in 1870 for building a new Cathedral. The Catholic Cathedral Association was formed and at its first meeting Captain Flannery was elected to the Building Committee. 
Bishop Benjamin Keiley (seventh Bishop of Savannah) paid tribute at Flannery’s funeral in May 1910 when he said “No more charitable man in deed or word ever lived. . . .  John Flannery was a consistent Catholic and his work and conversation were a tribute to that deep, earnest and childlike faith which came to him as a priceless legacy from his Irish ancestors.”


The Flannery Trust Fund was initially created in 1903 by Captain John Flannery with a $50,000 donation, which would equate to $960,000 today.

In 1911, $50,000 more was added as a bequest from Captain Flannery following his death on May 9, 1910 at the age of 75.

Additionally, a bequest from his daughter, Kate Flannery Semmes, was added in 1959/1961 following her death on November 22, 1958 at the age of 91.

The amount of contributions totaled up to $242,863 and no further contributions were made to the fund.

In 1985, the market value of the fund exceeded the $1,000,000 mark for the first time. Over a period of thirty-eight years (1977-2014), distributions made amounted to $2,693,633. For a better understanding of the effect the initial donations, consider that the amount of the distributions equals to eleven times the amount of the only three contributions ever made.

As of June 30, 2015, the market value for the Flannery Fund was $4,517,531.

The Board of Trustees for Flannery Fund meet once a year in October to determine how the money will be distributed.
The most recent disbursement of funds totaled $80,000 -- $40,000 in November and $40,000 in March.

So, where does the money go?

Current beneficiaries of the fund include the following: 50% to Diocesan Catholic schools; 30% to Diocesan social services; 10% to Diocesan seminarian education; and 10% to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah.

Then rector of the Cathedral, Father Robert F. Kennedy, determined that out of the ten percent of the fund given to him for the benefit of the Altar Society of the Cathedral, about half would be used to pay for the upkeep of the Flannery family lot in the Cathedral Cemetery following their deaths. Captain John Flannery’s selflessness has had an impressive impact on the ministries in the Diocese of Savannah, and continues to following his death.

Anyone can make a gift to the Flannery Fund or any other fund in the Catholic Foundation of South Georgia since each fund is set up to receive additional contributions.

If someone wanted to set up a fund of their own for the benefit of a charity, such as a school or parish, that would be an option as well.

Consider the Catholic Foundation of South Georgia in your will as a gift that keeps giving.

For more information, call Catholic Foundation of South Georgia Executive Director Liam O’Connor at 912-201-4061 or e-mail him at

Sarah E. Dixon is the Assistant Editor.


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