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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

“Father G” calls for action on the margins

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Greg Boyle, S.J., speaks to a full house at the Chapel of Saint Joseph on the evening of Sept. 12 (Photos by Luke Malanga ’20).

Campus talk resonates with students


When Claire Gill ’19 visited Homeboy Industries in the summer of 2017, she experienced what Greg Boyle, S.J., founder of the Los Angeles-based training and support organization for former gang members, argues is the heart of service.

“You don’t go to the margins to make a difference,” said Boyle, or Father G as he is known among his “homies.” “You go to the margins to make you different.”

Boyle was on campus Sept. 12, speaking before a packed audience in the Chapel of Saint Joseph at an event hosted by the Faith-Justice Institute.

Gill met Boyle in LA when she traveled to Homeboy Industries as part of St. Joe’s Summer Immersion Program. The trip is now offered through the Winter Immersion Program (WIP).

Boyle, left, and guest speaker Sharnise Simmons, right, take the podium.

Gill said her experience at Homeboy opened her eyes to the circumstances and realities that some people are born into.

“The value of witnessing something like that, you can’t forget that,” Gill said. “It’s always going to impact you.”

During his talk, Boyle discussed his experiences working with gang members, sharing stories of the power of what he calls “radical kinship.”

Ann Marie Jursca Keffer, director of the Faith-Justice Institute, said Boyle’s concept of radical kinship “fosters inclusion by breaking down barriers.”

“His compelling stories witness this call and vividly illustrate the challenges and joys of life on the margins of society,” Jursca Keffer said.

In his talk, Boyle said efforts to reach people on the margins must start with the St. Joe’s community and extend throughout Philadelphia.

“I always think about reverse immersion,” Boyle said. “What about people from Philadelphia on the margins coming here [to St. Joe’s]? I always think, ‘What would that look like?’”

The university offers mission-related activities through Collegiate Challenge, POWER University and WIP, which allow students to visit communities near and far for service immersion experiences.

These different organizations provide students with service opportunities ranging in location from Kensington, Pennsylvania to El Salvador.

On the service immersion trip to LA, Gill was able to meet members of the Homeboy Industries community.

Students, faculty and staff fill the Chapel of Saint Joseph.

“The thing that is just so inspiring about his ministry is that a lot of people, given their upbringing, sometimes they think that they aren’t worth being saved,” Gill said. “[Boyle] just showed everyone their worth and that each individual person has value.”

During her visit to LA, Gill worked at Dolores Mission, the church where Boyle formerly worked as a pastor and at the parish’s school.

Kathy McGee ’16, who participated in service programs including WIP, has read both of Boyle’s books, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” and “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship” and came back to Hawk Hill to hear Boyle speak.

McGee said the stories shared and the messages relayed personally resonated with her.

“It’s been a while since I have been at St. Joe’s and sometimes it is easy to feel disconnected from my Jesuit roots,” McGee said. “Any opportunity I have to feel reconnected and re-centered, I want to be at.”

 

Natalie Drum ’20 contributed to this story.

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