Boyle returns to preach resilience and compassion


One afternoon in April this year, Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J. the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, received a text message telling him to expect a phone call from the White House. 

Shortly afterward he received the invitation to go to the White House on May 3 to be one of 19 people awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

His reaction? 

“I have a light grasp on all these things, because you don’t want to cling to anything,” Boyle told the National Catholic Reporter, in his first interview with a news outlet after receiving the prestigious award. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s nice, I like Joe Biden.’”

Boyle will serve as chaplain-in-residence for Week One at Chautauqua Institution. He will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning service of worship in the Amphitheater following the opening Three Taps of the Gavel. His sermon title is “The Stillness in Charge.” He will also preach at the morning worship services at 9:15 a.m. Monday through Friday in the Amp. His sermon topics include: “Precious Soulfulness,” “Narrowness is the Way,” “Mystical Activism,” “So gathered,” and “Visible Entirely.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles and a Jesuit priest, Boyle served as pastor of Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights from 1986 to 1992. Dolores Mission was the poorest Catholic parish in Los Angeles that also had the highest concentration of gang activity in the city. In the face of law enforcement tactics and criminal justice policies of suppression and mass incarceration as the means to end gang violence, he and members of his parish and surrounding community adopted what was a radical approach at the time: treat gang members as human beings. 

In 1988 they started what would eventually become Homeboy Industries, which employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises, as well as provides critical services to thousands of individuals who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life. 

More than 30 years later, Homeboy boasts 13 social enterprises, each providing job training and purposeful work. The organization’s holistic services include tattoo removal, legal aid, education, housing support, substance use disorder treatment, and mental health services. There’s even the Global Homeboy Network, an organization that has 300 partners in the United States, and 50 abroad. The purpose of this international coalition is to support citizens coming out of prison to create social enterprises.

The value of tenderness at the core  Homeboy Industries mission could not function. It simply offers redemption and an alternative vision of life for ex-gang-members.

“If they’ve surrendered to all the dosing of tenderness here, then they will be sturdy and resilient once they leave, and they will know the power of the courage of their own tenderness,” Boyle told NCR.

“It’s not so much, ‘Will the world change or be different out there?’” he said. “It’s about people seeing things with a different lens. The world doesn’t have to change, but the way they see it will change. That means they’re not going to be toppled by the difficulties that would normally lay them low.”

Boyle is the author of the 2010 New York Times bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, and The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness. Most recently, he authored Forgive Everyone Everything, an anthology of writings accompanied by Fabian Debora’s artwork. 

He has received the California Peace Prize and been inducted into the California Hall of Fame. In 2014, President Barack Obama named Boyle a Champion of Change. He received the University of Notre Dame’s 2017 Laetare Medal, the oldest honor given to American Catholics. Homeboy Industries was the recipient of the 2020 Hilton Humanitarian Prize validating 32 years of Boyle’s vision and work by the organization for over three decades.

Tags : Father Greg Boylehomeboy industriesreligion

The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.