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Rev. Boyle inspires with message of compassion, kinship during Cal State LA WellBeingU webinar

September 21, 2020

By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service

Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. shared a message of compassion and kinship during a webinar that marked Cal State LA’s first WellBeingU Speaker Series event of the academic year.

Boyle, a Jesuit priest, is the founder of Homeboy Industries, a renowned gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program in Boyle Heights.

“Cal State LA has a special place in my heart and always has,” Boyle said during the Sept. 18 webinar, explaining how the university has provided opportunities to many people who may not have otherwise received a chance to pursue a higher education.

Cal State LA President William A. Covino introduced Boyle during the virtual event, which was tuned into by hundreds of students, faculty and staff via Zoom.

“He is a prolific author and thought leader, a voice of conscience, whose words and books compel us to think deeply about community and how to care for one another,” Covino said of Boyle. “And while that conversation is always necessary, we need it especially now as we navigate the pandemic and the unrest in our nation.”

The webinar was part of the WellBeingU Speaker Series, which has brought notable leaders and experts to the university, including Los Angeles Times columnist and Cal State LA faculty member Steve Lopez, UCLA Labor Center project director Victor Narro, and Prajna Paramita Choudhury, a mindfulness meditation practitioner.

WellBeingU is a nationally recognized model for promoting the inner and physical well-being of students through resources and programs dedicated to basic needs and behavioral health services. President Covino and First Lady Debbie Covino launched the initiative, formerly known as Mind Matters, in 2014 to help Cal State LA students achieve academic success while dealing with the pressures of university life, family responsibilities and jobs.

During Boyle’s heartfelt and moving address, he recounted stories from the more than three decades since he founded Homeboy Industries, spoke of the importance of compassion and kindness and fielded questions from attendees.

Boyle characterized the country as currently confronting two pandemics—COVID-19 and systemic racism—and highlighted how the coronavirus has disproportionately impacted low-income people of color. He advocated for compassion and dismantling barriers between one other.

“No kinship, no justice. No kinship, no equality,” he said. “No matter how singularly we may be focused on these goals, they can't happen unless there’s a sense that we belong to each other.”

The thread running through Boyle’s remarks and stories was one of kindness and kinship, seeing the goodness in others, and the joy that comes from being in community, themes that are featured in his next book, The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness.

“My hope for all of you at Cal State LA is to hold out for the place itself, the place of kinship and connection and exquisite mutuality, where there is no daylight that separates us,” he said.

Photo: Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. speaks during the WellBeingU Speaker Series webinar on Zoom.

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit