It’s no secret that Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. has become something of a celebrity in the Catholic world.

As the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program in the world, Boyle spends most of his time helping some of the most disaffected members of society.

His efforts since 1986 to create change in the area around Dolores Mission, the poorest and most gang-affiliated parish in Los Angeles, have been well documented in several of his books. His 2010 book Tattoos on the Heart, in which he describes numerous interactions with gang-affiliated members of the community, became a New York Times bestseller.

The average age of those in attendance was noticeably lower than many Quick Center events, as students from Fairfield Prep and the University filed in to hear from one of the most widely read Jesuits in the world.

Photo from @HomeboyIndustries on Instagram.

“It seems to be a thing for Catholic schools across the country to compel students to read my books,” he joked.

In a city with approximately 120,000 gang members, Boyle has become a light for those seeking to change their path in life. The work is rewarding, albeit very emotionally taxing; Boyle recently buried the 261st gang member whom he had come to know upon moving to Los Angeles in 1986.

“I read Tattoos on the Heart when I was in high school,” said Chelsea Doyle ‘25 before the talk began. “I couldn’t believe it when I found out that he was coming to Fairfield.”

In his talk, which fluctuated between raucous, laugh-out-loud moments and heartbreaking silence, Fr. Boyle described the harrowing life stories that gang members (whom he affectionately refers to as “homies”) have recounted at his talks across the country.

For John Crowley and Charlotte Chisholm ‘25, who have been reading Tattoos in their course “Finding God in All Things,” the talk was an opportunity to hear more of these accounts.

“The book is so captivating,” they related before the event. “We’re so excited to learn more about how Homeboy and its employees operate.”

In describing the revelations that people have when they hear the gang members speak across the country, Fr. Boyle used a Spanish word that Saint Ignatius Loyola used to describe his relationship with God: acatamiento. The word roughly translates into English in this case as “affectionate awe.”

“In these interactions, people from completely different areas of society put a mirror up to each other’s faces,” he shared. “This is when they see the goodness in themselves, in each other, in everyone.”

Photo from @HomeboyIndustries on Instagram.

Fr. Boyle came not just to discuss his actions with Homeboy Industries, but to promote the work of a new addition to the Homeboy network. Homebridge Ventures, which opened its doors 15 months ago in Bridgeport, provides many of the same gang outreach and rehabilitation services that Homeboy Industries provides in Los Angeles.

“1,000 people return to Bridgeport from incarceration every year,” said Homebridge founder David Stubbs, to audible gasps from the Fairfield audience. “But we now have 25 members, and with support from people like you, we can continue to grow.

At this, Stubbs encouraged several current members of Homebridge Ventures to stand up and receive a round of applause from the audience.

“If you reach out to the margins just to make a difference, you make it about you,” Boyle said near the end of his talk. “You also need to be reached by them—you need to see who they are.”

“I loved the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that he used to describe the talk,” said Michael Murphy ‘24 after its conclusion. “Like church, this talk is not something you go to; rather, it’s a place you go forth from.”

Murphy continued, “After that talk, you can’t help but feel a sense of purpose, intention and happiness. It lets you go out and change lives.”