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Priest to Gangs Brings Message to Chico
Father Greg Boyle knows what his life’s mission is: to help inner-city youth avoid a life of violence in gangs.
Boyle is a Jesuit priest who has worked with gangs in East Los Angeles since 1986. He was assigned to serve as pastor to the Dolores Mission for a six-year term, but when the time came to leave, the community objected, and he was allowed to stay. He’s received national acclaim for his work helping the people he works with to find jobs and quality schooling.
Boyle will be visiting CSU, Chico during Founders Week. He will speak at the Newman Center on April 19, from 7 to 9 pm. The topic of the speech will be “Tattoos on the Heart: Community as a Response to Gang Violence.” The following day, April 20, Father Boyle will participate in a Conversation on Diversity. He will talk with faculty, staff, and students on the topic of “Gangs: A Growing Presence in our Community.” The conversation will be held in Harlen Adams Theatre at noon.
Father Boyle grew up in Los Angeles on a dairy farm, a long way from the inner-city community he would one day serve. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Gonzaga University and a master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University. After graduate school, he went to the Jesuit School of Theology to become a Jesuit priest.
He taught at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, and served as chaplain at Folsom State Prison and Islas Marias Penal Colony in Mexico. Father Boyle served as pastor of the Dolores Mission in Los Angeles from 1986 to 1992. He also worked with the Christian Base Communities in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
He is the founder and director of Homeboy Industries/ Jobs For a Future. The company was founded in 1988 at the Dolores Mission, the poorest church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Jobs For a Future finds employment opportunities for at-risk youth. Father Boyle’s motto? “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”
Boyle did not start out to work with gang members, he said. As part of his work as a pastor, he officiated at funerals, and when some of those funerals were for those killed as a result of gang violence, he began focusing his efforts on helping young people.
“I buried my first kid in 1988 and my 134th on Valentine’s day this year,” Boyle said.
As part of his work at Homeboy Industries, Boyle has become a kind of father figure to the young people seeking employment. His office door is always open to those needing a bit of encouragement before an interview or a high five after getting a job. He is also available to help with the little details like learning how to tie a tie properly.
Boyle has become a mentor to many young men and women. One young man, Leo Ochoa, will be graduating from California State University, Chico this May. Ochoa lived in the Pico-Gardens Housing Projects in East Los Angeles, which is where he first met Father Boyle. Ochoa said that not only did Father Boyle provide him with jobs on several occasions, but even now offers support and help to Ochoa and his family.
For more information on Father Boyle, his visit to Chico, or Homeboy Industries, please go to homeboy-industries.org or rce.csuchico.edu/homeboys.