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Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, Inspires Students to Seek Connection and See Others

“Loyola Academy isn’t the place you come to, it’s the place you go from,” said Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, referencing our collective call to service for others in an all-school assembly on Monday, November 15. Founder of Homeboy Industries, which began in 1988 as a way of improving the lives of former gang members in East Los Angeles, Fr. Boyle discussed his work with individuals on the margins of society. He shared powerful stories of transformation, connection and hope with the student body.
“Fr. Boyle reminded us that our work as women and men for others doesn’t end at Loyola Academy—it begins here,” says Loyola Academy Principal Charlie Heintz.  “The transformational power of love cannot be understated. In fact, it is the very thing wherein we will find solutions to the complex problems around us. Compassion, connection and community are the bedrock of kinship and the seeds of God’s dream for each of us.” 

In the weeks leading up to the event, the Loyola community spent time preparing for the presentation. Students learned about Fr. Boyle and his ministry in their Theology classes. With curriculum appropriate materials, they were exposed to the meaning behind his message of radical kinship and extravagant tenderness. They learned about Fr. Boyle’s ministry to the marginalized, his "big" notion of God and his belief in the power of boundless compassion.

“Fr. Boyle and his companions at Homeboy Industries embody joy and courage—the very marrow of the Gospel,” explains Theology Department Chair Mr. Joshua Hooker.  “As a Jesuit apostolate, it is important that our entire Loyola community, but especially our students, encounter the joy of Christ while also understanding that such tenderness calls us to be courageous in bringing that joy to the world. This is especially important as we grapple with our shared and particular experiences of the pandemic. As a community rooted in Catholic faith, informed by the Gospels, and guided by the spirituality of Saint Ignatius, we are compelled by the invitation and example of Homeboy Industries to ‘go where love has not yet arrived;’ or,  in the words of Fr. Boyle, ‘to connect with voices on the margins, which is God’s dream come true.’” 

Faculty and staff  had the opportunity to participate in a Lunch & Learn in the Marillac Room on Thursday, November 11. Led by fellow faculty and staff members Theology Department Chair Mr. Joshua Hooker, Theology Teacher Dr. Scott Myslinski, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mrs. Sarah Bennett and School Counselor Ms. Roseanna Suh, this workshop-style presentation provided an overview of the Ignatian themes of Fr. Boyle’s work. To aid in discussion, one hundred free copies of his new book, The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness, were made available to faculty and staff (the Loyola Academy Library also secured ebooks for the larger community).

Parents and guardians were invited to join students, faculty and staff in a virtual book club community reading of The Whole Language led by Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mrs. Sarah Bennett and Mr. Douglas Gleber, director of adult faith formation. The book club met via Zoom on November 2, 9 and 16 and discussed moving stories from the book that challenge our ideas about God and about people, providing a window into a world filled with fellowship, compassion and fewer barriers.

On the day of the assembly, Eveanna Mendoza ’22 introduced Fr. Boyle, who was preceded on stage by Jose Rodriguez. A former gang member, Jose shared personal stories of his difficult childhood, his descent into life on the streets and his eventual triumph after he encountered Homeboy Industries and began to rebuild his life. After working with Homeboy Industries for three years, Jose is currently employed by the Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry as an outreach worker for the homeless.

A soft-spoken and conversational presenter, Fr. Boyle captured the attention of students during the hour-long assembly. Sharing moving stories from his work in a violent, impoverished world, he encouraged Ramblers to cherish people and stand at the margins. “The world will accuse you of wasting your time,” he said. “But you’ll be connecting with others, and this is God’s dream come true.”

What stood out to senior Liam Zidar was Fr. Boyle’s emphasis on looking out beyond Loyola. “I really liked Fr. Boyle’s point that Loyola is not just the place we go to, but the place we go from,” he says.  “He encouraged us to use what we have learned here to spread hope and provide unconditional love to others as Ignatian spirituality calls us to be women and men for others.”

Luke Hughes ’23 was struck by Fr. Boyle’s humility and approachability. “When you have the chance to talk to him, you learn that he in fact is just as human as the rest of us. For me, that was truly comforting,” he recalls, adding, “His emphasis on inclusion, extravagant tenderness, and proximity are things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Fr. Boyle helped me see that, as a man for others, it is my responsibility to take good care of myself, my neighbors and our common home so that we can leave this world better than we found it.”

After the presentation, a small group of students had the opportunity to continue the conversation with Fr. Boyle and Jose over lunch in the Marillac Room.

Over the past thirty years, Gregory Boyle, SJ, has transformed thousands of lives through his work as the founder of Homeboy Industries, the world's largest gang-intervention and rehabilitation program.  His new book The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness, is a treatise on community and connection in a disconnected world. Bursting with encouragement, humor and hope, The Whole Language invites us to treat others—and ourselves—with acceptance and tenderness.


Additional resources:
  • Loyola Academy Reference Librarian Ms. Elizabeth Kaiser and Teacher/Librarian Mrs. Margo Stack collected a number of resources for the Loyola community. The libguide they created is a wonderful collection of materials related to Fr. Boyle’s service, as well as the themes of restorative justice, reconciliation and adverse childhood experiences.
  • An easy entry point for anyone who is interested in learning more about Fr. Boyle's core message can be found in his TED Talk on compassion.
  • To view a recording of the presentation, click here.
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    • Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, Presentation 11/15/2021

      Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, Presentation

      11.15.2021

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