Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. | University of Portland

Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J.

Gregory Boyle, SJ, is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. Now located in downtown Los Angeles, Homeboy Industries has been replicated by more than 250 organizations, in locations as widespread as Idaho, Scotland, and South Africa. Each year more than 10,000 former gang members from across Los Angeles come through Homeboy Industries’ doors in an effort to make a change in their lives. As Fr. Boyle writes in his second book, Barking to the Choir, “Homeboy wants to give rise not only to the idea of redemptive second chances but also to the new model of church as a community of inclusive kinship and tenderness.” Some of those second chances come in the form of an 18-month job training program—Homeboy Industries runs a bakery, a café, farmers markets, and businesses in electronics recycling, catering and silkscreening. Sometimes the second chance comes from the removal of a tattoo (Homeboy removes about 3,000 per month). But mostly the second chances come from the healing, tender community, where people are encouraged to delight in one another the way Fr. Boyle is convinced God delights in every one of us. By keeping his feet firmly planted with the marginalized, Fr. Boyle finds that the margins melt away. He typically brings his homies with him to speaking engagements and in doing so centers the stories of their wisdom and experiences. Their wisdom is hard won—Fr. Boyle has buried close to 250 individuals due to gang violence—and Homeboy employs four therapists (and 49 more who volunteer) to walk with individuals trying to overcome a childhood of poverty, addiction, violence, mental illness, or deep trauma. Fr. Boyle sticks to his Ignatian roots when he speaks of finding God in all things, most especially in the community of homies he calls his colleagues, friends, and neighbors. (One of his homies is his spiritual advisor.) He initially grew to know East Los Angeles as pastor of Dolores Mission Church, when it was the poorest parish in the city and gang violence was particularly high, but in this space he found God. “We are sent to the margins NOT to make a difference,” he writes, “but so that the folks on the margins will make us different.” Fr. Boyle has received the California Peace Prize, the 2008 Civic Medal of Honor from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame. He is the author of The New York Times best seller Tattoos on the Heart.