Regis University welcomes Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J., back to campus

The original homeboy, Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J., returned to Denver in September to speak with students, staff, faculty and the community at large, sharing a message of redemption and restoration. Boyle, who has previously spoken at Regis University and was a commencement speaker in spring of 2017, returned via a partnership between the University and Denver non-profit Fully Liberated Youth (FLY), an organization that aims to holistically resource and empower young people who are experiencing oppression, trauma, gang-involvement or system-involvement.

In 1988, Rev. Boyle started Homeboy Industries as a way of improving the lives of former gang members. The organization based in Los Angeles has evolved into the largest gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program in the world. Boyle noted how society has changed as far as their view on gangs, in particular in ministering to them. “I think times have changed. I don't think we'd ever go back to that period where so many people have demonized gang members so thoroughly…we're kind of not there anymore. I think people understand outreach like that,” Boyle said. 

Although he’s noticed that views have changed, Boyle said people are more divided and an idea of “othering” has taken place. However, he said young people shouldn’t give up hope as there is still good to find in our world. Boyle often brings former gang members, now employees of Homeboy Industries, who he fondly calls them homies, to speak at his events. He feels there is a greater impact when an audience hears stories directly from them and from deep inside. 

“People are cynical, and it is a birth of all those things, as a result of all those things. But I think the more that you can speak from the marrow of the Gospel, the more authentic the message is,” Boyle said. “If the message is authentic…the hope that will break through any cynicism or negativity or conspiracy theories or whatever it is that you know, people fall for…if you speak from the heart, it will arrive in the heart.”

Before his talk that evening, two of the homies shared their heartfelt stories of redemption and restoration, crediting Boyle for the courageous and loving work he continues. Boyle challenges people not to stop helping those on the margins, and rather than trying to go to these places and have the “fix and rescue” mentality to see how they may be moved by the community itself.

“So, you want to invite people to point the way, what are we aiming for? What kind of sense of connection and kinship and exquisite mutuality? They’ll feel good that you're inviting them to something,” Boyle said. He added if people are talked at about what’s wrong and criticizing all the time, then most will not want the help. “But if you're just pointing stuff out, I'm not a talk that just points things out. They kind of say, are you aware that this percentage of people are imprisoned and okay, yeah, count me out, because it just doesn't.”

Regis partnered with the Denver non-profit Fully Liberated Youth to bring Rev. Boyle back to campus. Fully Liberated Youth is an organization that aims to holistically resource and empower young people who are experiencing oppression, trauma, gang-involvement or system-involvement so they can continue becoming the liberated individuals our communities need.  

FLY’s co-founders Natalie Baddour and Preston Adams said they were excited to partner with Rev. Boyle, Homeboy Industries and Regis to help raise awareness about the work they are doing in the Mile High City. 

“What I found was the kids saved us,” Adams said. “The kids reached us; the kids rescued us. My young people have saved my life. And they've done more for me than I've ever, ever could do for them. And so, it's really that kinship that we try to embody as an organization. So, while we do all these different services and provide mentorship, it's all with this understanding of relationships, and how do we build deep relationships with young people and allow them to save us and change us and rescue us?” 

Boyle shared the same theme of helping young people today and remembering how they are the future. He also reminds people of the work that must continue when helping so many in need.

“How do we stay anchored in the present moment? How do we live as though the truth were true? The idea of course, the invitation is not to even make a difference at the margins, but to allow the folks at the margins to make you different,” he said. “If you're there to receive and be reached by them, and to listen to them, and to cherish them. Well, that's a whole other thing. Get in there.”


Photos by Jacob Garcia