After more than a year’s delay, the Rev. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, arrived on St. Thomas Sunday and was welcomed at a reception held at Coral World Ocean Park. He is scheduled to speak Monday evening at Antilles School.
Boyle was slated to come to St. Thomas a year ago to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the founding of My Brother’s Workshop, but two Cat 5 hurricanes forced his visit to be put on the back burner.
A Jesuit priest, Boyle was serving 30 years ago at Dolores Mission Church in one of the most gang-ridden areas of East Los Angles. He saw a need to offer hope to the young people who, hounded by despair, were being lured into lives with no good endings. His answer was Homeboy Industries, which trains and employs former gang members in a variety of social enterprises.
For those in the Virgin Islands community who know the story of My Brother’s Workshop and its founder, Scott Bradley, it is hard to miss the coincidences. Hence, the invitation to Boyle.
Sunday the long-awaited visit came to pass as the man who has provided inspiration for Bradley and others in the Virgin Islands and hope for thousands of gang members in L.A. arrived on St. Thomas.
Along with authoring two books, “Tattoos on the Heart, The Power of Boundless Compassion” and “Barking to the Choir, The Power of Radical Kinship,” about his vast experiences with men and women few in the mainstream ever get to know, Boyle is a much sought-after speaker.
After only a few minutes listening to him Sunday night, it was easy to see why. He is unabashedly in love with the people he has helped – and they with him. As he quoted a verse from the Christmas carol “Oh Holy Night” – “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth,” Boyle said that is what he wants all people to have, the soul feeling its worth.
“That is exactly what God has in mind,” he told the MBW supporters Sunday night.
Monday, in his no-nonsense but tenderly loving, humorous manner, Boyle will share his story and the stories of the people he has served for 30 years. Alongside him will be a former gang member, now associate executive director of Homeboy Industries, Hector Verdugo.
The public is invited to join Boyle and Verdugo, as they candidly share their experiences in being “delivery systems of hope,” which allowed them to provide better outcomes for the “homies,” as Boyle lovingly refers to the people he has spent the last 30 years of his life getting to know.
The free event will start promptly at 6 p.m. Monday at Prior-Jolleck Hall on the campus of Antilles School. The doors open at 5:15 and those wishing to attend are encouraged to get their early.