Homeboy-Inspired Mural at Sacred Heart

By Fr. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ

During last year’s 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, Founder and Director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, and Fabian Debora, Director of Substance Abuse Programs and professional painter and muralist, addressed standing room only audiences in both English and Spanish about their work with former gang members. This year, Fabian returned with another Homeboy, Cruz López, to spend a week with Sacred Heart teenagers, designing and executing a mural that includes their hopes and dreams for themselves and their community. From August 21 through 25, 2017, fifteen youngsters worked from 9am to 5pm under the creative and understanding eyes of Fabian and Cruz. They created concepts and dreams through the painstaking and rewarding tasks of bringing concepts to light through line and color. All contributed to the final design and each had a hand at painting.

LA Homeboys Fabian Debora and Cruz López lead a discussion with youths at Sacred Heart about the mural project.

Cruz explained the process, “The kids began the week talking about how they were feeling about themselves and their community. Then they were told to find one word to express that feeling. Next they were instructed to express that word in a drawing. Finally, they worked on incorporating their individual drawings into the complexity of the mural.”

Staying within the lines.

Lenin, one of the teens commented, “It was an amazing experience working with Fabian and Cruz. I learned that everyone is a part—a piece of a bigger picture.”

Expressing feelings and hope through paint.

Elvis added, “I learned that there is a process to everything. We worked as a team to achieve our goal. It was awesome having Fabian and Cruz working with us.” Fabian summed up the project this way, “It’s the beauty of the connection, through cultural identity, from one city to another, from Homeboys LA to Sacred Heart RVA.” 

Families, friends and benefactors gather for the unveiling.

An official unveiling took place on Saturday afternoon, August 26. Donors, benefactors and families were invited. Each teen explained his or her unique contribution and how it fit into the whole. Fabian inspired the parents to acknowledge and praise the efforts of their children. Parents were teary-eyed, seeing all that their children had accomplished in five days. Donors agreed that it was money well spent.

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Bellarmine Retreat Center is located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains by the Appalachian Trail on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. It is scheduled to close on Labor Day 2018.