Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Re-Posting Because of Today’s LA Times: Father Boyle

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 26, 2014,0,3300815.column#axzz2rYqlcmp4

Previous LA Times….,0,5754852.column

Father Gregory Boyle, a jesuit priest, , and reminds me of my earlier post Father Boyle knew intuitively that when gang members can find an alternative sense of belonging they can find a new way to be in the world. He proves, through his life’s work, the value of attachment. He invests emotional energy in “kids” who have never “experienced dignity before.” By dignity, he means that when one begins to respect the individuality of these gang members, then the adolescent can change their lives and contribute to society. He gives them work skills and in so doing he proves to the ex-gang members that they have hope to make their lives better. In my mind, he re-parents these young adults such that these youngsters can “navigate the treacherous waters of their lives.” As Father Boyle says “people say I give them a second chance, but I say, it is really a first chance.” “Gang members are coming from a place of despair” he says. Without formal mental health training, Father Boyle recognizes the essential need to have a family that instills hope in the future. He teaches coping skills, parenting skills, and responsibility such that they can deal with the challenges of their world. His work inspires therapists to work on a one on one basis to change lives, by believing in their client, such that the client can eventually change course and live in the world in a new way. Inspiring.

8 Responses to “Re-Posting Because of Today’s LA Times: Father Boyle”

  1. Shelly said


    Did you buy the book?

    • Not yet, but I will.

      • Jon said

        So, 22 months downstream, I will ask the potentially embarrassing question, echoing Shelly. Have you bought the book yet?

        • Hi Jon,
          You know, I was waiting for you and/or Shelly to ask me that. Guess what? I am going to buy it now. I love the internet. It keeps me going where I need to be! Thanks!

          • Jon said

            So… it is now another 9 months further downstream, a time long enough for human gestation, I re-ask the potentially embarrassing question. Have you bought the book yet? If yes, did you read it?

            • No…but I did buy his bread at the Farmer’s Market..Am I embarrassed? Not so much. I wanted to post today’s article because he says, and I agree, that he would have an easier time finding funding for stray dogs than he does for ex-gang members, and that is a very sad state of affairs. Should I buy his book? Yes. Should I read it? Yes. I take the long view on this one.

  2. Shelly said

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, Shirah, but my perception of gangs is that while gang members may have good family bases, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. That gangs are territorial and that they provide friendships and these friendships are territorial. Why then does Father Boyle need to teach “parenting skills” to the gang members? Perhaps gang members cannot see that there is any way out of “the life” of the gangs, the dead-end jobs with no future, etc… and perhaps job-skills and training might be in place, but what role, other than a confidante and advisor does Father Boyle play?

    • Hi Shelly,
      Generally speaking, the gang members do not have good family bases. Again, in general, they lack the love and care they are entitled to as developing human beings. Father Boyle exposes them to the feelings of love and care so that they are inspired (or some of them, anyway) to take better care of themselves, and thereby take better care of their worlds. Father Boyle does show them a way out of gang life, both through his love, and through the practical application of making a store which sells food to the public and to supermarkets. He does help them develop job skills, but it seems to me the most important thing he does, is remind them that they have personal value. Thanks.

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