One of the pivotal moments in St. Francis’ life occurred when he embraced a leper, someone who had been seen by most people as an outcast in society. Even Francis—at that point in his life—had felt the same way. With that embrace, however, he began to see the person rather than the disease. Too often, society turns its back on those whom it has deemed unworthy by some arbitrary rule.
Thankfully, though, there are people like Father Greg Boyle, SJ, who has embraced those on the margins in East Los Angeles and helped bring them hope. For Father Greg, that means helping gang members to step away from that life and into a brighter future. His Homeboy Industries program began in 1988 after he was named pastor of Dolores Mission Church.
Not only was this the poorest Catholic parish in Los Angeles, but the surrounding area also had the highest concentration of gang activity.
Father Greg began working to address the problem. The program he began has now grown into the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and reentry program in the world, welcoming thousands through its doors each year. And it is all because Father Greg took a situation that others saw as hopeless and viewed it as an opportunity. He, much like St. Francis, decided to embrace those whom society had turned its back on. And it has made all the difference in the lives of many.
May we all be inspired to seek out similar ways to help those in need.