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Guest commentary: Inspiring words of kinship and hope

Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries (center), former gang members Chris (left) and Gregorio and the Rev. Rebecca Dinovo
Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries (center), stands with former gang members Chris (left) and Gregorio with the Rev. Rebecca Dinovo of St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Teresa Hixson)

Creating a community of compassionate belonging — that is the goal of Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries, who spoke at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla on Feb. 26-27.

[Homeboy Industries is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit gang-intervention and rehabilitation program that works with former gang members and previously incarcerated young men and women.]

Father Greg underscored messages of kinship and compassion, saying, “We are all created in the image and likeness of God, even though we tend to create God in our own likeness.”

He quoted his friend and author Anne Lamott, who said, “You know you’ve created God in your own image when God hates the same people you do!”

“God cherishes us,” Father Greg said. “Cherished people are likely to find their way, and when former gang members experience this as sanctuary, then they take this sanctuary back home to their families. Lives change for good.”

Two young men, former gang members Chris and Gregorio, shared their experiences of life change after going through the Homeboy Industries program.

“We are used to being watched by people, but not being seen,” Gregorio said. “But at Homeboy Industries, we learned what it felt like to really be seen and appreciated by the people in the Homeboy community. They gave us a chance.”

Father Greg and the team at Homeboy Industries (homeboyindustries.org) are dedicated to standing by young men and young women at the margins.

“Only loving kindness and tenderness matters, yet it can be excruciating for the young people on the journey, given all they have lived through,” he said. “The key is that loving never stops loving. Keep reminding people of their truth, to see themselves as God does. For each of us is the shape of God’s heart, and every one of us is a delivery system of hope.”

Teresa Hixson is a La Jolla resident.