By serendipitous chance, I watched virtually all of the Commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame this morning via live stream. It was an impressive and moving ceremony. Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., was the recipient of the 2017 Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics by the University. Fr. Boyle is the legendary founder of “Homeboy Industries” here in Los Angeles. Homeboy Industries provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community. Each year over 10,000 former gang members from across Los Angeles come through Homeboy Industries’ doors in an effort to make a positive change. They are welcomed into a community of mutual kinship, love, and a wide variety of services ranging from tattoo removal to anger management and parenting classes. Full-time employment is offered for more than 200 men and women at a time through an 18-month program that helps them re-identify who they are in the world, offers job training so they can move on from Homeboy Industries and become contributing members of the community - knowing they count!
There were a number of distinguished guests at this year’s ceremony, yet none spoke more eloquently than Fr. Boyle. It is indeed a credit to our Nation’s premier Catholic institution that they would so honor this priest whose life has been dedicated to tearing down walls of indifference and raising up the dignity of these sons and daughters of God.