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Pair of Campus Events Focus on Prison Ministry

10/18/12

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: Oct. 18, 2012

Homeboy Industries Founder and Executive Director Gregory Boyle, SJ, who has been called one of the most inspiring Jesuits in America, will come to Boston College next week to deliver a public address and participate in a prison ministry conference sponsored by the School of Theology and Ministry.

At his talk, which will take place Oct. 25 in Robsham Theater at 7 p.m., “Fr. Greg” — as he is popularly known — will share his reflections on community and the sacredness of life through the lens of Ignatian spirituality, drawn from more than 20 years of work with formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women in Los Angeles. The lecture is co-sponsored by The Church in the 21st Century Center.

[As of last Friday, Robsham Theater had reached capacity for Fr. Greg’s talk. Other viewing options include a live broadcast on BC TV channel 47 and a simulcast feed to limited overflow seating in Yawkey Athletic Center’s Murray Room. Contact Diane Dube at ext.2-6501 for more information. The event also will be available via STM’s Encore Events page in mid-November.]

The next day, Oct. 26, Fr. Greg will speak at, and participate, in an all-day STM conference, “Prison Ministry: Where Justice and Mercy Meet,” in the Heights Room of Corcoran Commons.

Since Fr. Greg created Homeboy Industries — in response to the escalating violence in Los Angeles in the late 1980s and early 1990s — it has grown into the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the US and is recognized as a national model. Homeboy Industries offers legal counseling, mental health services, job training, tattoo removal, and GED classes, among many other services and programs. It also operates social enterprises, such as a bakery and a silk-screening and embroidery shop, that employ former gang members. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Fr. Greg’s book drawn from his two decades of working in “the gang capital of the world,” was a New York Times bestseller.

“Fr. Greg is a remarkable man,” said event organizer Barbara Quinn, RSCJ, STM associate director for spiritual formation. “He can make you laugh and cry all at once.”

The STM event in which Fr. Greg will participate is expected to draw more than 200 students, prison chaplains, prison administrators, deacons and others to discuss current issues and concerns in prison ministry, and hear about the role of the community in supporting those returning to society after time in prison.

Maureen Clark, CSJ, the longtime Catholic chaplain at Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Framingham and South Middlesex Correctional Center, will speak on “Beginning Again: The Challenge and Struggle of Re-Entry.”

Conference attendees also will hear personal stories from Carl Carbonic, who served time in prison and was paroled earlier this year; Janet Connors, who lost her son to violence and is an advocate of restorative justice; and Leo Vercollone ’77, a prison ministry volunteer and businessman who makes it a policy to employ a percentage of formerly incarcerated.

STM’s ongoing commitment to prison ministry is supported by its Prison Ministry Initiative (PMI), led by graduate student René Micallef, SJ, who visits Norfolk County Jail in Dedham every weekend to hear confessions and celebrate the Eucharist. This year the PMI has joined up with Partakers, an organization committed to prisoner rehabilitation. Under the aegis of the group’s College Behind Bars program, teams of students tutor and mentor — both online and in person — prisoners who are pursuing their college degrees.

Through connections forged by BC alumnus Richard Deshaies, SJ, who serves as Catholic chaplain for the Middlesex County House of Correction in Billerica, STM now offers a field placement for students at the Billerica prison.