A Homeboy Inspired Mural at Sacred Heart

By Fr. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ

During last year’s 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month at Sacred Heart Church in Richmond, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, founder and director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, and Fabian Debora, director of substance abuse programs and a professional painter and muralist, addressed standingroom- 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 would speak to their hopes and dreams for themselves and their community. As the summer drew to a close this year, fifteen youngsters worked for five full days 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 participated in the painting.

What was once just a white wall is now a work of art that speaks to the dreams of Latino teenagers.
Cruz explained the process: “The kids began the week talking about how they felt about themselves and their community. Then they were asked to find one word to express that feeling. Next, they were instructed to express that word in a drawing. And finally, they worked on incorporating their individual drawings into the complexity of the mural.”


L.A. Homeboys Cruz López (left) and Fabian Debora (right) stand proudly with a teen painter by his masterpiece.
Lenin, one of the teens on the project, commented, “It was an amazing experience working with Fabian and Cruz. I learned that everyone is a part—a piece of a bigger picture.”

Elvis, another teen, added, “I learned 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 L.A. to Sacred Heart R.VA.”

An official unveiling took place with families of the teens as well as the project’s donors and benefactors. 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 just five days. Donors agreed that it was money well spent.

Sacred Heart teens convey their thoughts through a paintbrush.

Fr. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ, is director of the Latino Leadership Institute and Ignatian Identity at Sacred Heart Center.

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