Could it be that
people who seem so
cruel were once kids
who got beatings
instead of meals?
point? Boyle speculates a bit, but
declines the role of chief gang advisor.
He fields more questions and
encourages people to ask questions
of his homies, Luis Colocio and
Nicholas Lopez of Homeboy Industries. A woman asks, how do you
break the cycle of violence? Boyle
looks pleased to hand the microphone to Lopez, who explains how
he is raising his 6-year-old daughter differently than he was raised.
Later Colocio tells the audience
that a turning point from addiction
and gang life was getting a job. He
chokes up a little when he recalls his
astonishment that someone would
give him a real job, and a sustained
applause washes over him.
The session wraps up, and now
Boyle is seated at a table with St.
John’s students selling his book at
one end as he signs books at the
other end. He peers up at book own-
ers, asking their names so he can
personalize his signature. He poses
when people ask for photos. Only a
few stragglers are left as he bundles
up money from a donation box,
chatting affably. Whereas Colocio
and Lopez eagerly nod or bob their
heads when speaking to these private
school families—“Yes, ma’am,” “No,
sir,”—Boyle is at ease.
He is 62 years old, and he has
seen a lot over three decades in
central city ministry. When he first
began at Dolores Mission Church in
central Los Angeles, the gang violence was overpowering. He recalls
once doing eight funerals in a three-week period. That was his impetus
to start looking for solutions, which
led to the multifaceted outreach programs of Homeboy Industries.
Tonight he still has a drive ahead
of him, and the hour is growing late.
A few more thank-yous, a discussion
about the easiest way to his car, and
Father Greg Boyle, S.J. and friends
are out the door.
Tomorrow they do essentially the
same thing all over again in Cleveland. Homeboy Industries will take
home some needed funds. And here
in two heartland cities—each with
troubles that people in central Los
Angeles might understand—Boyle’s
vision of kinship and God’s generous
love has been scattered like a seed. =
“Fighting gangs one youth at a time.”
BOYLE SIGNS HIS
book, Tattoos on the
Heart (Free Press,
2010), after his talk
in Toledo, Ohio.
IWAS EDUCATED by the Jesu- its. They were hilarious and prophetic, and it was one of
those ‘I’ll have what they’re having’ moments,” says Father Greg
Boyle, S.J. “I joined right out of
Loyola High School [in Los Angeles, in 1972]. They were just the
most amazing human beings.
It was during the Vietnam War;
they were the funniest human
beings I had ever met; and they
were kind of: ‘Here, get in the
van, we’re going to drive to San
Francisco and we’ll protest the
war.’ I [thought], ‘Well count
me in!’ I just loved it. It was
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