Father Gregory Boyle, an inspiration to all
When it comes to gang bangers, most people run in the opposite direction, but not Father Gregory Boyle. Through his work over the past twenty-five years, Boyle has embraced a subculture of misguided youths that most would not have the courage to even talk to. On Thursday, March 10th, Boyle spoke to a full house inside the Main Stage at Santa Monica College. In fact, so many showed up that there was an overflow room that broadcasted a large video projection of live coverage from the Main Stage located next door.
Dubbed the "Ghandi of the Gangs", Boyle was introduced by SMC professor Jaime Cruz of the history department.
"The continuity and the longevity of his works speak volumes," said Cruz. "He loves these young people unconditionally."
A former gang member who had been aided by Boyle was quoted by Cruz in his introduction as saying, "If there were more priests like Father Boyle, I'd go to church more often."
Boyle's impact on the gang community has created countless opportunities and opened doors for young people who may have been out of options otherwise. To many, he is like a saint.
Upon taking the stage, Boyle shared anecdotes with the audience of his experiences throughout the years. He opened with a statement: "You're exactly what God had in mind when God made you," reflecting his sentiments.
Immediately, Boyle drew the audience in with the stories he shared, one of which was about a prostitute and drug addict he referred to only as Lisa.
Lisa had been resistant to any help, but one day decided she could no longer live the way she had been living since her high school graduation.
Boyle said that at the time, he nearly dismissed Lisa's presence in his office because she had previously made it clear she did not want to be helped. For the first time in her life, Lisa admitted to her struggles with addiction, gangs and prostitution, and that she had wanted to quit from the very start, but could not find the will to do so. Boyle helped Lisa gain strength and gave her an opportunity to get back on her feet.
Another short anecdote he told was about a former gangbanger who came to Boyle for help. Father Boyle made arrangements for the enthusiastic teen to be an apprentice at a computer establishment asking the woman who worked there to teach the boy everything she knew about computers. In addition, Boyle would pay the boy a salary each week for going to his lessons.
The boy was learning quickly and even sent a fax to Boyle during one of his lessons saying how he was learning to use a fax machine and how thankful he was to Boyle.
One morning, Boyle received a call from the boy's mother that a rival gang had shot him and that he was in the ICU.
He passed away a week later. Stricken with grief, Boyle said he was glad that the boy had realized that he had become exactly what God had wanted him to be when God made him.
"There are a lot of things worse than death and not knowing that happens to be one of them," said Boyle.
Boyle's goal for everyone is kinship "obliterating the idea that we are separate" from each other.
From the massive successes of his Homeboy Industries, Homegirl Bakery—with over four hundred employees, and "where enemies bake bread together"—and his motivational and uplifting lectures, Father Gregory Boyle has been a source of hope to many.