Homies for Life
January 5, 2015
Hidy-Ho everyone! Today you’ll be hearing from Jerri, from
as well as Mary Beth and Maggie from the .
University of Dayton
We started off our day today in a wonderful place known as Homeboy Industries. This is a place for former gang members to come and try to contribute to society in a more productive and safe manner. The ministries included in Homeboy Industries include Homegirl Cafe, tattoo removal, employment advising, personal case management, GED and other classes that teach various life lessons. Upon our arrival, we witnessed Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, give his "Thought of the Day". As he spoke we all observed a sense of reverence among all the people present. Father Boyle truly cares about each member of the Homeboy family and wants to see everyone improve their lives for the better.
After Father Greg spoke, we were introduced to our tour guide, Frank*. Frank gave off the same sense of love and respect as everyone else. Since he was young, he hasn't had the best family life. He witnessed death right in front of his eyes as a young child, which lead him to join the gang life to seek revenge. He told us more and more of his story and then revealed to us that he was just nineteen years old. It was eye-opening to meet someone so young share so many struggles and obstacles.
As we went through the tour we stopped at the Tattoo Removal room. As Frank explained how painful it was to remove his tattoos, he also told us about the significance of getting a gang related tattoo. He told us that gangs provide a sense of identity and safety but in reality the gangs really lead to betrayal and unecessary violence and bloodshed. Even as he knows that he wants to change his life for the better it is hard for him to completely let go of his gang affiliation, because his gang will always be a part of his life. We think it is very respectful that he is trying to change his life around for the sake of his children and wish him the best of luck.
After our tour of Homeboy Industries, we went to a well known historical plaza in the center of Los Angeles. As we walked past the different shops to make our way into the center of the plaza, the Mexican traditions were very prominent. While in the center of the plaza we recieved a packet containing information about one of our founders, Marie Terese. Marie Terese and Father Greg both shared a lot of similarities in the development of their ministries. The most common similarity is that they offered resources to those considered the outcast of society, like prostitutes and gang members. These resources were open to those willing to make a change. It was not a forced ministry. Both ministries offered trainings and workshops that helped develop life skills so that once they left, they were able to contribute to society. In addition, they gave the people seeking help tasks to make them feel worthy and valuable as well as prepare them for the real world. A big take away from this reflection was learning the importance of saying YES to God, even when it is not clear where your vocation may take you.
Father Jim & St. Ann's Catholic Church
Father Jim is the priest of St. Ann's Catholic Church, a small but mighty neighborhood church that serves many different diverse communities. For example, they say Mass in five different languages and offer the sacrifice of confession in fifty-five! In the church you could visibly see the Mexican influence, but he also talked about the Vietnamese influence. While the Mexican culture impacted the architecture and focus on Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Vietnamese culture affected the youth ministry of the church.
After this we ate lunch at Pho 87, a Vietnamese restaurant run by a family of parishioners from St. Ann's. As we ate, and we ate a generous amount, the owner's nephew shared his story with us. He came to America in 1991 by boat in an attempt to escape persecution in Vietnam. This was quite risky to do and cause a lot of disgrace for families. However, it was worth the risk to find a better life. Once he arrived in Philadelphia, he took four years to learn the English language and understand American culture. Since his arrival, he has been pursuing education in every way possible. He was able to attend college and even post graduate school, when in Vietnam he didn't even think college was an option. The many stories that he had to share about his life and the struggles he faced were very inspirational and provided a lot of insight to us and the rest of the group. Also.. the food was great!
We came back to the Villa after our lunch and all hung out with one another and built community. Some played basketball, others talked, and still others played cards. There was much laughter. Then we all gathered together to Skype a fellow Marianist Brother, Bro. Skip. He has quite the experience with Skid Row and wanted to share his insights with us a bit before we visit there tomorrow. Our Skype call lead to a great discussion about the criminalization of homelessness. After our discussion it lead to some anxiety, fear, and excitement among the students about visiting Skid Row tomorrow. We are very eager and hopeful to see how tomorrow goes!
Thanks for reading and God Bless!
Father Greg's Thought of the Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT6jE4JjHSg