Last night, the Human Journey Colloquia Series at Sacred Heard University in Fairfield, CT featured the Founder of Homeboy Industries, Father Greg Boyle who spoke to a “standing room only” audience concerning his life’s work with gang members in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Father Greg or “G” as the homies refer to him was inspiring in the illustrative way which he brought the audience into the pain that many people experience on a daily basis.
Silence was the best word that could describe the response of the audience as Father Greg shared one story after another drawing together the love that God has for the broken and despised in our world. One story which may have been one of the most powerful illustrations was about a woman who had been addicted to heroin as she told Father Greg, “Since the day I graduated from high school.” Father Greg shared that when this woman first walked into his office, he was in a hurry and initially did not want to take the time to listen. He then shared that this woman, broken and confused, began to weep before him telling him how long she had been trying to break free from this horrible drug. He stated that she, with tears in her eyes spoke the chilling words that may be the best description of his entire ministry to those that are living in the periphery. She looked Father Greg in the eye and slowly said, “I am a disgrace.”
Father Greg’s stories all pointed to the same condition in the human person, in which he says that many have internalized the shame and disgrace of the powerful forces which hold so much influence over their lives. Father Greg stated that he is also transformed through the relationships with the gang members. He bases his work on the simple need for other people to walk alongside those who live lives of disgrace and shame, encouraging them in their journey. Father Greg truly believes that his life work is not in simply serving the needs of other people, but the idea of “Kinship”, which he mentioned over and over again.
He said that, “Jesus did not only serve the needs of the people, but truly hoped that the people and Jesus would be one.” Father Greg said that kinship compels him into the relationships with those who are marginalized, demonized, and truly oppressed. The audience gave a standing ovation to Father Greg, not simply because of his witty stories, or his wry sense of humour, but because at the core of our being is the need to know and be known by others. Father Greg also encouraged anyone who was willing to live their lives on the periphery with, “The least of these”, that ridicule from other’s would be a possibility. The audience recognized that Father Greg is truly living out the ministry of reconciliation.