In an address to more than 1,700 members of Loyola University Maryland's Class of 2012, Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder and chief executive officer of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the country, encouraged the graduates to speak for the powerless, the voiceless, and those whose dignity has been denied.
"Fortunately for you, Loyola has not prepared you for the real world," said Fr. Boyle, who received a doctor of humane letters degree, honoris causa, from Loyola at the Exercises. "It has asked you to challenge it, to be less concerned with the bottom line and more concerned with those who line the bottom."
In unscripted remarks that drew both laughter and then tears from his listeners, Fr. Boyle shared anecdotes about the former gang members he has befriended through his work—including two teens from rival gangs who now exchange good-natured barbs by text message. "They used to shoot bullets at each other. Now they shoot text messages. There's a word for that. It's kinship."
Mentioning that he buried his first teen in 1988 and his 182nd on Tuesday, Fr. Boyle asked the members of the Class of 2012 to bridge the gap between service providers and service recipients.
Building on a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., Fr. Boyle told the graduates, "So Loyola is not the place you come to. It's the place you go from determined to create the community of kinship that God will recognize."
University President Brian F. Linnane, S.J., encouraged the new graduates to enter conversations with both conviction and open minds.
“There are many ways to serve the common good, and your commitment to service and justice throughout your years at Loyola—a commitment I sincerely hope you will continue to uphold as you begin your careers, or, for our graduate students, accept new positions of leadership within your fields—provides compelling evidence that you already embrace your responsibility to the society in which we live,” he said. “But there are many other ways of living this principle—including your willingness to set aside differences, both superficial and profound, and work with others to find the solutions that have thus far eluded us, and to exemplify for the leaders of our nation and the world how to do the same.”
Learn more about Fr. Boyle.
The 160th Commencement Exercises were held on May 19 at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore.
Other honors presented during the Exercises included:
- The President’s Medal (presented to those who have demonstrated notable support of Loyola or the greater community): Rev. John M. Dennis, S.J., director, Loyola Campus Ministry.
- Newman Medal (presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to Catholic education): Mary Pat Seurkamp, Ph.D., president, Notre Dame of Maryland University.
- The Milch Award (recognizing superior contributions and achievement by an organization involved in service): St. Ignatius Loyola Academy in Baltimore, Md.
Image Caption: Fr. Linnane (center) with Commencement honorees (L-R): St. Ignatius Loyola Academy representative, Rev. John M. Dennis, Mary Pat Seurkamp, and Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J.