Founder of Homeboy Industries addresses AUSCP and guests at 2015 Assembly
“If kinship were our goal, we wouldn’t be seeking justice, we’d be celebrating it.!” said Jesuit Father Greg Boyle.
That notion of kinship resonated with Rev. Robert Rosebrough, pastor of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta Parish in Ferguson, Mo., after hearing Boyle’s address in St. Louis June 29, at the assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests.
Rosebrough and several other members of the Ferguson Ministerial Alliance were among invited guests and members of the general public at the presentation.
Boyle started Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, providing jobs and educational opportunities for gang members and ex-offenders. Homeboy Industries runs bakeries, restaurants, a silk screen company and other business that provide skilled trade opportunities.
Boyle has chronicled the joys and sorrows of his ministry in a book, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.”
Boyle’s presentation to the AUSCP included humor and heart-stopping sadness. He mentioned the homeboy who had become an accomplished public speaker, who advised Boyle to include “self-defecatory comments” in his own presentations. And the homegirl waitress who thought she recognized actress Diane Keaton: “We were locked up together one time!”
He also told ofrival gang members “Youngster” and “Puppet” who had only hatred for each other, but who had to work together. After some six months on the job, a street gang beat and kicked Puppet into flat-lined life support and eventual death. Youngster was distraught, offering to give blood or do whatever he could.
“He was not my enemy, he was my friend,” Boyle quoted him. “We worked together.” That new reality “was God’s dream come true,” said Boyle. It was what Jesus prayed for, that we may all be one.
“Being one” is kinship and it means there is no “us” and “them,” there is only “us,” said Boyle. “Without kinship there is no peace, without kinship there is no justice.”
Rosebrough said that Boyle’s notion of kinship “resonated with him and echoed a recent homily given by Pope Francis.” He said the pope said some people speak well and do good actions, but if they haven’t listened to each other, they are not following Christ.
“You’ve got to listen to each other’s stories,” Rosebrough insisted, as the path toward kinship among factions and groups in a community like Ferguson.
Rosebrough and other members of the Ferguson Ministerial Association continue to work toward healing the community following the violence and turmoil that followed the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot by a police officer Aug. 9.
Now, almost a year later, “Our calling is to help with healing, said the Rev. Karen Knodt, interim pastor of Immanuel United Church of Christ and also a member of the Ferguson Ministerial Alliance. Her goal for the members of her congregation is for them “to have their world include all their neighbors.”
That’s another way of describing kinship.