Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Founder of gang violence ministry to speak at St. Thomas Aquinas

Published July 6, 2017

ALPHARETTA—Jesuit Father Gregory J. Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, will speak at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, on Sunday, July 30, at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

A native of Los Angeles, Father Boyle entered the Society of Jesus in 1972 and was ordained a priest in 1984. In 1986, he was appointed pastor of Dolores Mission in East Los Angeles. 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 the city. 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 1980s.

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.

Father Gregory J. Boyle, SJ

“Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle said. “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”

Jobs for a Future evolved into what is now Homeboy Industries, the largest, most comprehensive and most successful gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. Each year over 10,000 former gang members come through its doors seeking a better life. They are welcomed into a community of mutual kinship, love, and a wide variety of services ranging from tattoo removal to anger management and parenting classes. Full-time employment is offered for more than 200 men and women at a time through an 18-month program that helps them re-identify who they are in the world and offers job training so they can move on from Homeboy Industries and become contributing members of the community.

Father Boyle is the author of “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion,” named one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly. His newest book, “Shoulder to Shoulder: The Power of Radical Kinship,” which will be released in November of this year, shares what three decades of working with gangs have taught him about faith, compassion and radical kinship.

He was the subject of Academy Award-winner Freida Lee Mock’s 2012 documentary, “G-Dog.” Among other honors, in 2014, the White House named Father Boyle a Champion of Change. This year the University of Notre Dame honored Father Boyle with the 2017 Laetare Medal, the most prestigious award given to an American Catholic.

Terry Zobel, adult faith formation and evangelization coordinator at St. Thomas Aquinas, welcomes Father Boyle to St. Thomas Aquinas. She said, “I was introduced to Father Boyle by a friend who thought I might enjoy listening to Father Boyle reading his book, “Tattoos on the Heart,” while driving. Little did I know how dangerous that would be! I had to keep pulling over to the side of the road because it’s hard to see when you’re crying.”

She added, “Father Boyle’s stories touch your heart. Some are funny, some are sad, but all speak of God’s boundless love and tender presence. Like Pope Francis, he shows us what the ‘ministry of encounter’ looks like.”

Father Boyle will be signing his books following his presentation.