Act III Broken Open·Illumination

13 Wisdoms from Father Gregory Boyle

10 minute read

Father Gregory Boyle-Inspired

The Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.

1. Stop Trying to Reach Them

“For starters, stop trying to reach them. Can you be reached by them?” -Father G

2. Believe and Love

“He’ll believe in you until you believe in yourself. He’ll love you until you began to love yourself.” -Homeboy

3. Flashlight for the light switch

“No amount of me wanting that guy to have a life is the same as that guy wanting to have one, so you do what you can and you love being loving, and that’s all you can do. You shine the flashlight on the lightswitch but only he can turn that light switch on.” -Father G

4. It’s the Margins that Matter

“You don’t go to the margins to rescue anybody, but go figure, when we all go to the margins, everybody gets rescued. That’s kind of how it works.”-Father G.

5. What are we Disrupting?

“We are disrupting this notion that it’s possible that there are some folks who aren’t our own, who don’t belong to us.”-Father G

“We forgotten that we belong to each other,” Mother Teresa.

“We are disrupting the notion there just may be some lives out there that matter less than other lives.”

“And you stand against it. And you stand at the margins with the poor, the powerless, and the voiceless, and those whose dignity has been denied and those whose burdens, including mental illness, are more than they can bare, for which you can only have one response….compassion and that’s why it’s untenable in our country because we have to hate them.” -Father G.

5. I have never met an evil person.

“There are no such things as ‘bad guys’….for 30 years I’ve worked with gang members I’ve never met one; I’ve never met an ‘evil person’ cause the minute you start to know what people carry, it breaks through and you stand in awe at what folks have to carry rather than in judgement of how they carry it.”-Father G

6. “And you stand with the disposable

so that the day will come when people will stop throwing them away.” -Father G

7. Homeboy is about Healing.

“In our early days, we were about ‘nothing stops a bullet like a job,’ an educated inmate may or may not return to prison or an employed one may or may not return to prison, but a healed gang member won’t ever go back to prison.” -Father G

8. Humility and Hubris

“Humility asks humans on the margins, ‘what would help?’ and hubris is, ‘here’s what your problem is.’ and it’s important from the getgo to choose a stance that wants to receive who people are and the light of who they are.”-Father G.

9. “We’re not a “Transactional Agency”, Homeboy is relational.”

“Homeboy is relational, because that’s the only thing that works. I think if you go through this country and find programs that not only work but help, it’s because they’re anchored in relationships. That’s why folks show up everday, because it’s unrelenting in it’s relational tenderness.”-Father G.

10. “Deal with the lung cancer”

“We’re all into symptom relief. We all want to calm the cough, deal with the lung cancer patient rather than the lung cancer, and it’s too bad, because it’s short-sighted.”-Father G.

11. Peacemaking requires conflict.

“I think peacemaking requires conflict. There is no conflict in gang violence. There’s violence, but there’s no conflict. It’s not about anything…The key diagnostic moments are always important.” -Father G.

12. One gang member at a time.

13.  We create a community of kinship such that God may recognize it.

“The only thing that quenches God’s thirst is our connection to each other, our union, is our kinship.”

“And mass incarceration just won’t matter to people unless folks know that we all belong, that there is no ‘us’ and ‘them,’ there’s just US.”

“There are two kinds of gods. There is God and then, there’s the ‘god’ we settle for.” -Father G.

More on Father G (From their website):

A native Angeleno, Father Boyle entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1972 and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1984.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Gonzaga University, a master’s degree in English from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Divinity degree from the Weston School of Theology, and a Master of Sacred Theology degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.

After ordination, Father Boyle spent a year living and working with Christian base communities in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  In 1986, he was appointed pastor of Dolores Mission Church in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA.  At the time, Dolores Mission was the poorest Catholic parish in the city, located between two large public housing projects with the highest concentration of gang activity in Los Angeles. He witnessed the devastating impact of gang violence on his community during what he has called “the decade of death” that began in the late 1980’s. In the face of law enforcement and criminal justice tactics and policies of suppression and mass incarceration as the means to end gang violence, Father Boyle and parish and community members adopted what was a radical approach at the time: treating gang members as human beings.

By 1988, having buried an ever growing number of young people killed in gang violence, Father Boyle and parish and community members sought to address the escalating problems and unmet needs of gang-involved youth by developing positive opportunities for them, including establishing an alternative school and day care program, and seeking out legitimate employment.  They called this initial effort Jobs for a Future.  “Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle has said.  “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”

In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Jobs for a Future and Proyecto Pastoral, a community-organizing project begun at Dolores Mission, launched their first social enterprise business in an abandoned bakery that Hollywood producer Ray Stark helped them purchase.  They called it Homeboy Bakery.

When his term as pastor ended later in 1992, Father Boyle spent his tertianship (the final year of Jesuit formation) serving as a chaplain at the Islas Marias Federal Penal Colony in Mexico and at Folsom State Prison.

In the ensuing years after his return to Jobs for a Future in 1993, the success of Homeboy Bakery created the groundwork for additional social enterprise businesses, leading Jobs for a Future in 2001 to become an independent nonprofit organization, Homeboy Industries.

Today, Homeboy Industries employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises, as well as provides critical services to 15,000 men and women who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life.

Father Boyle is the author of the New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, which was named one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly and received the PEN Center USA 2011 Creative Nonfiction Award.

Father Boyle is the subject of Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock’s 2012 documentary, G-Dog.  He has received the California Peace Prize and been inducted into the California Hall of Fame.  In 2014, the White House named Father Boyle a Champion of Change.  He received the 2016 Humanitarian of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation, the national culinary-arts organization.

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