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Monday, June 09, 2003

Jesuits at work.

I have a little secret. Please sit down. You may not have noticed, but I don't like the Jesuits much.

No, really. Here's more:

I like the rotted-out California Jesuits even less. Shocking, I know. But...

There are a lot of good men left in the order, doing a lot of difficult work. Even in California. When they do, they deserve to get noticed. With that in mind, I bring you the story of Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J., who has spent the last two decades trying to reclaim the lives of L.A. gang members. Now, he's been diagnosed with leukemia, which he describes as "inching towards remission." Here's an excerpt that describes his background and a typical day at the office:

The Los Angeles native of Irish descent first met suspicion from gang members but eventually won their respect and trust after he persistently sought them out, riding his bike through the Boyle Heights housing projects. He learned not only fluent Spanish but their slang, mastered the intricacies of gang life and showed them what he calls his principle of "no matter whatness" -- "No matter how bad it gets, you never withdraw love."

When the public schools kicked the gangbangers out, Boyle started a school for them. When they told him that jobs would help keep them from gangs, he sent 100 parish ladies into the streets to solicit jobs from local businesses. When they began to call him "G-dog" -- these days shortened to "G" -- he knew he'd won their trust.

Angel Juarez, 23, said news about Boyle made some homies question God's fairness. "God knows who's good and bad -- Why him?" asked Juarez, who credits Boyle with turning him from drugs, booze and crime to a stable life of faith, family and honest work.

"I just trust in God to keep him safe and heal him," said Juarez, who was shot in the head in 1996 and now works from a wheelchair in Boyle's office. "I just keep on praying for him."

Despite two difficult rounds of chemotherapy, Boyle looked fit and surprisingly energetic during a visit this week to his busy office on 1st Street. A steady stream of young men, parents and friends stopped by to remove tattoos, apply for jobs, seek advice about wayward sons and plan tonight's event. As Boyle spoke, his eyes darted constantly, ever watchful for any sign of skirmishes among visitors and the former enemies now working side by side.

"Cesar, you have to work immediately the minute you get here," he told one youth. Another walked into his office, fuming that his bike had just been ripped off, then returned shortly later to announce that it had been found. Boyle stopped him:

"As long as you got the bike, you don't get the kid, OK? It's settled, right?" The youth nodded his head in assent.


RTWT. Plus, look for the interesting nugget that gives some insight into Martin Sheen, often pegged as a "spirit of V2"-type.

[Link via Envoy Encore]

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