“It’s the privilege of my life to have spent the last 25 years of my life with gangsters,” Father Gregory Boyle said at the Orange County Chapter of Women of Vision Faces of Courage fundraising event held recently at the Balboa Bay Club. “They have taught me so much.”
“I go way back with Women of Vision people,” he continued. “What brings us all here on a Saturday is that vision to make the world look differently than it presently looks.
“What we’re all called to do is inch our way out to the margins and hope the margins get erased. The folks in the margins just want attention. How do we stand against the thought that there just might be lives out there worth less than ours? How do we bridge the gap that divides us?”
Mary Hendricks, Newport resident and co-chair, with Jean Winder, of the Orange County Chapter of Women of Vision, welcomed the 450 men and women to the luncheon following the silent auction and spring boutique, and explained that Orange County was home of the very first chapter of Women of Vision, dating back to 1991.
“Our chapter was the first chapter, and now there are 40-plus around the world. We even have one in Bermuda and one in Singapore,” Mary said. “For our annual Faces of Courage Luncheon we decided to focus on the domestic ministry of World Vision. World Vision has 11 programs in the United States where poverty is present.”
Women of Vision is a volunteer partnership of World Vision, an international Christian humanitarian organization that has served the poor throughout the world since 1950 through emergency relief and long-term commitment to community-based outreach and development.
Mary explained that Father Boyle was chosen because he shares Women of Vision’s passion for providing interventions that tackle the causes of poverty and injustice in order to help children and their families reach their full potential. Father Boyle is a Jesuit priest and his compassion has transformed the drug and gang infested inner city neighborhoods of Los Angeles to a place where rival gang members work side by side. Father Boyle’s job training and placement program has grown from its simple beginnings with Homeboy Bakery in 1992 into the nonprofit economic development enterprise known as Homeboy Industries.
Homeboy Industries has become a national and international model and is recognized as the largest gang intervention and reentry program in the United States. Homeboy Industries, with more than 300 employees, is a living example of their Mission Statement, “Nothing Stops a Bullet like a Job.” Father Boyle has received numerous humanitarian awards, among them the California Peace Prize. His book, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion,” was named one of the best books in 2010 by Publishers Weekly, and he donates all net proceeds from the book to Homeboy Industries.
Before Father Boyle spoke, two of his Homeboys shared about their lives and the impact Father Boyle has had on them.
“In 2012 at the age of t30, because of prior arrests, I was offered 12 years in state prison,” Louie said. “Before the verdict was read, I had a one-on-one with God, I asked Him, if He gave me a second chance at life, I would change my ways. The verdict was read, ‘Not guilty’ – that’s why I’m here today. I’d heard about the transforming and changing they do at Homeboys, and in one year there, I accomplished more than I had in 15 years of crime. It is just a wonderful place that Father Boyle has designed for us. Homeboys is a place where everyone is accepted and given unconditional love. The only other place I know like that is heaven. Homeboy Industries, to me, is heaven on earth.”
Thirty-nine-year-old Hoang spoke about his descent into gangs and drug selling, and the dramatic difference Father Boyle made on his life by believing in him.
“Homeboy Industries gave me a vision I never saw before,” Hoang said. “I want to be a good dad. Now I’m taking parenting classes. I want to give young kids a future of hope, faith, and freedom; it’s delicious, better than drugs.”
Father Boyle told inspiring examples of how sharing God’s love and believing in those who can’t believe in themselves can change the entire trajectory of people’s lives.
“They used to shoot bullets at each other, now they shoot texts,” Father Boyle said. “The measure of our compassion is not in our level of service to those on the margins, but of kinship.”