The Inspiring Work of Father Greg Boyle

The Inspiring Work of Father Greg Boyle

By Jamie Matthewman
September 2nd, 2014

“Compassion is always, at its most authentic, about a SHIFT from the CRAMPED world of self-preoccupation into a more EXPANSIVE place of fellowship, of true kinship” ~ Father Greg Boyle

I was fortunate enough recently to be introduced to the inspirational work of Father Greg Boyle – a Jesuit Priest who for the last 26 years has been doing some amazing work, transforming peoples lives.

Since 1988 he’s been working passionately and tirelessly with high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women in the notorious and often violent gang land area of Boyle Heights in LA.

He is the founder of Homeboy Industries, which provides a continuum of free services and programs, and operates several social enterprises that serve as job-training sites.

Homeboy Industries is now America’s largest gang intervention rehab and re-entry centre with over 15,000 ‘homies’ walking through its doors each year.

Thanksgiving Day 2012 at Homeboy Industries

Tattoos on the Heart

I hadn’t heard of Father Greg until one of my friends recommended his breathtakingly profound book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion – one of the most inspiring, optimistic and compelling books I’ve ever read.

It is a collection of stories from Father Greg’s (or G-Dog as he’s fondly known by those he serves) 26 years working, in the most violent gang-ridden section of LA.

His parables, while often tragic and stained with great sadness, are just as frequently heartwarming and hilarious; always poignantly extolling Father Greg’s message about dissolving the idea of separateness and the belief that one life matters more than any other.

It is a beautiful piece of writing about unconditional love and kinship that had me in laughter and tears throughout; it’s a book that will draw me back, again and again, sure to become a companion for life

Even though it’s written by a Jesuit priest, I’m pretty sure agnostics or atheists would struggle not to appreciate it’s powerful message.

If you decide to read this book, it’s likely to question you to become a better man and inspire you to be kinder to yourself so that you can share your compassion with humanity.

About Father Greg’s Work

Father Greg’s early work in Boyle Heights included establishing an elementary school, a daycare program, a community organizing project, Comité Pro Paz en el Barrio, and finding legitimate employment for young people. This was a clear demonstration that many gang members were eager to leave the dangerous and destructive life on the ‘streets.’

In 1992 Father Greg launched their first business: Homeboy Bakery, with a mission to create an environment that provided training, work experience, and above all, the opportunity for rival gang members to work side by side.

The success of the Bakery created the groundwork for additional businesses, which led to the creation of an independent non-profit organization – Homeboy Industries in 2001.


Today Homeboy Industries’ nonprofit economic development enterprises include Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, Homeboy Diner, Homeboy Farmers Markets, Homeboy Plumbing and Homegirl Café. Homeboy Industries between them employing over 400 people. Here Father Greg describing what they do :


“At Homeboy Industries, we seek to tell each person this truth: they are exactly what God had in mind when God made them – and then we watch, from this privileged place, as people inhabit this truth. Nothing is the same again. No bullet can pierce this, no prison walls can keep this out. And death can’t touch it – it’s just that huge. But much stands in the way of this liberating truth. You need to dismantle shame and disgrace, coaxing out the truth in people who’ve grown comfortable believing its opposite.”

Father Greg’s Public Speaking

As well as heading up such an inspiring organisation and giving all he can to the community he’s worked so hard to improve. Father Greg also travels the world sharing his message, giving over 200 talks every year. More often than not, accompanied by rival gang members who’s lives have been transformed by the work of Father Greg and Homeboy Industries.

Celeste Fremon who wrote a book about Father Greg’s early work, said “he’d brought such an infusion of love that some young men have finally become strong enough to save themselves.”

Here is an example of Father Greg in action, in this beautiful Ted Talk, sharing some of the stories featured in his book and the essence of his message that everyone is worthy of their unique place on this planet.

A massive amount of respect to Father Greg and Homeboy Industries, keep inspiring.

Jamie Matthewman

About Jamie Matthewman

Jamie is the founder, main contributor and editor of The Inspired Man.

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