The White House on Friday announced that Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, the founder of a prominent ministry dedicated to rehabilitating gang-affiliated youth, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom alongside 18 other recipients this afternoon. 

Boyle, ordained a priest in 1984, founded Homeboy Industries in 1992 while pastor of Dolores Mission, a Catholic church and school in an area that at one time had one of the highest concentrations of gang activity in Los Angeles. 

Today, Homeboy Industries claims to be the largest gang-intervention program in the United States.

The successful ministry, which now operates nationwide, offers training and job skills to those formerly involved in gangs or in jail, as well as case management, tattoo removal, mental health and legal services, and GED completion.

While the group has said it is “not affiliated with any particular religion,” it also notes that many of its works are “in line with the Jesuit practice of social justice,” and Boyle has said that the organization does not seek to “downplay” its Catholic identity.

Boyle described the ministry several years ago to CNA as “soaked with the Gospel.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, is presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public, or private endeavors, the White House says.

In announcing this year’s recipients, the White House noted that the honorees “built teams, coalitions, movements, organizations, and businesses that shaped America for the better.”

“They are the pinnacle of leadership in their fields. They consistently demonstrated over their careers the power of community, hard work, and service,” the announcement says. 

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Biden, who is Catholic, announced that among the honorees is former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State John Kerry, both fellow Catholics known for their pro-abortion advocacy.

Other honorees this year include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Vice President Al Gore, Olympian Katie Ledecky, and actress Michelle Yeoh.

In 2020, Boyle was one of several hundred religious leaders who signed an endorsement of Biden’s campaign. The priest has called for the Church to “include with more compassion our LGBTQ sisters and brothers.”

In 2021, meanwhile, Homeboy Industries received $20 million in grants from prominent progressive backers Mackenzie Scott and Dan Jewett.