Walking in Grace: A Reminder of the Grace in Mending the Gaps

Elisa McCartin
July 9, 2019

In the new photo book Walking in Grace, author Alison Fogg Carlson highlights the stories of former gang members who are transforming their lives at Homeboy Industries. Father Greg Boyle S.J. founded Homeboy Industries thirty years ago, and has dedicated his life to serving the Los Angeles community impacted by gang activity. Father Greg and the Homeboy community unconditionally welcome gang members looking to change their life. To facilitate this process, Homeboy Industries provides services such as tattoo removal, education, workforce development, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and legal assistance. Walking in Grace illustrates the impact of these services with powerful photos by Michael Collopy alongside poems and stories of former gang members who have been touched by Homeboy Industries.

In 2018, Nuns on the Bus had the privilege of touring Homeboy Industries and meeting members of the Homeboy community. At Homeboy, the Sisters witnessed the life-changing transformations that go on every day. They learned that every year 10,000 people turn to Homeboy to redirect their life, making Homeboy Industries the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry program in the world. After the visit, Sister Julie Fertsch, SSJ wrote, “They [Boris, Janet, Christina, Selena, George, and Allison] inspired us with their stories of radical transformation, of the many ways they found “home” at Homeboy Industries.”

One of Fr. Greg Boyle’s quotes in Walking in Grace summarizes how Homeboy works to mend the gaps: “Our locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them. The margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers-that-be erase them. The trickle-down theory doesn’t really work here. The powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the ‘other’ will only be moved to kinship when they observe it. Only when we can see a community where the outcast is valued and appreciated will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.”

At NETWORK, we recognize the importance of connecting with communities in need and addressing the harm years of disinvestment and structural oppression cause. Our 2020 Vision to mend the gap articulates the pressing need to identify and advocate for policies in the areas in our society where people are left behind and forgotten. Collectively, we must seek out ways we can be in solidarity with overlooked communities.

The stories told in Walking in Grace remind us of the truly transformational power of community and kinship. In order to truly mend the gaps in our society, we must eliminate judgement, unease, and insecurity. We must fearlessly pursue justice and inclusion.

Elisa McCartin is a NETWORK volunteer and student at Georgetown University.

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