Fr. Martin B. Mangan

The Very Reverend Martin B. Mangan (1929-2001)

–  a native of Springfield, Illinois, was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest on May 1, 1957. He graduated from Springfield’s Cathedral Boys High School in 1947 and attended in turn St. Louis University, the Diocesan Latin School near Springfield, and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, where he earned a master’s degree.

Fr. Mangan was appointed as co-pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Granite City, Illinois, in 1957. He went to Rome a year later to study for a doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. After his return to the United States in 1961, he worked for seven years in the Office of the Bishop of the Springfield Diocese of Illinois. He was then pastor of parishes in Granite City (1968-72), Taylorville (1972-77), Mount Sterling (1977-81), Highland (1981-86), and Tuscola, Illinois (1986-91). St. James Church of Decatur, Illinois, was his final pastoral assignment, where he served from 1991 to 2001.

Starting in the 1960s, Fr. Mangan, known as “Mitz” to his friends, took a special interest in civil rights and social justice issues. Most of the papers in this collection deal with his activism, primarily in support of Decatur-area labor unions.

Significant portions of the collection pertain to the lockout of workers from the A. E. Staley plant in Decatur, and protests against Staley’s British parent company, Tate & Lyle. The collection also documents clashes in the mid-1990s between labor and management at the Caterpillar and Bridgestone/Firestone plants in Decatur. For studies of these disputes, see Stephen Franklin, Three Strikes: Labor’s Heartland Losses and What They Mean for Working Americans (2001), and Steven K. Ashby and C. J. Hawking, Staley: The Fight for a New American Labor Movement (2009).

Fr. Mangan was instrumental in establishing Religious Leaders for Justice at A. E. Staley, an interdenominational group of more than 170 members who wrote letters to Sir Neil Shaw, Tate & Lyle’s chairman. He also helped to organize the Catholic Labor Conference, a nationwide group of Catholic labor activists which met in Decatur in 1996.

The collection contains correspondence, notes, newspaper clippings, booklets and flyers, photographs, videotapes, and awards. Also included is a collection of Fr. Mangan’s Sunday homilies, The Gospel According to Mitz, compiled by Gary Minich (2002), and several Internet files such as the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.), “Parish Priest: A Photo Documentary of Rev. Martin Mangan” (2001).

The collection was donated to the University of Illinois Library in 2001 by Sr. Glenda Bourgeois, O.S.U. As Parish Life Coordinator at St. James Church, she filed Fr. Mangan’s papers, and the collection retains her division of the material between chronological and topical folders. Robert D. Sampson, a friend of Fr. Mangan’s in Decatur, proposed and facilitated Sr. Glenda’s gift. He also added numerous items to the collection, including material on Fr. Mangan’s death on Sept. 14, 2001; the program in his memory on Dec. 12, 2001 (the First Annual Father Martin Mangan Lecture on Social Justice); and, in 2009-2010, a series of replies by Fr. Mangan’s friends and associates to questions about his beliefs (filed as “Recollections”).  In 2008, Elizabeth Ann (Betsy) Finzer, Fr. Mangan’s sister, loaned additional materials to the Library, photocopies of which are interfiled in the collection.

Bob Sampson has further documented Fr. Mangan’s life on a website:

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