In the summer of 2020, as a high school senior, Graceann Beckett (’24) received a graduation gift that would set the course for a transformative journey. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, by Father Gregory Boyle S.J., the founder of Homeboy Industries, opened her eyes to a world of boundless compassion and sparked a passion for social change.
Homeboy Industries, established in 1988, is the world’s largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program. Graceann, drawn by Father Boyle’s work, organized a campus book club, delving into his three books and fostering a community of individuals passionate about compassion and justice.
Graceann began talking about the possibility of inviting Father Boyle to speak to the Loras College community. Undeterred by the challenges, she rallied support, reaching out across campus and the broader community. Her leadership and determination paved the way for Father Boyle’s visit in March, showcasing her ability to turn passion into impactful action. She attributes her success and confidence to the supportive community at Loras College.
“If it weren’t for my professors and people in spiritual life, the idea of bringing Father Boyle to campus could’ve been easily brushed off,” shares Graceann. “If there are supportive people around you, encouraging you, it definitely gives you confidence to risk and try. Encouragement can go quite a long way.”
Motivated by a desire to contribute directly, this past summer, she spent eight weeks at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker—close to Homeboy Industries. The aim of the Catholic Worker movement is to live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ. Each summer, any adult interested can join them for six weeks. It is an opportunity to live and work with a gospel-based community, to discern one’s vocation, or just to deepen one’s social justice experience on a first-hand basis.
Graceann helped prepare and serve meals on Skid Row and engaged in witnesses for social change. Her experiences, including an arrest during a protest, highlighted the importance of applying theology in action and fueled her dedication to working for justice. She even got to personally invite Father Boyle to Dubuque when their paths crossed at Delores Mission, his former parish that she often attended.
As a double major in philosophy and religious studies and theology with minors in business and Catholic studies, Graceann embodies the spirit of a compassionate and dedicated leader. Now a Loras senior, Graceann plans to pursue graduate studies in theology, aiming to continue her on-the-ground work and apply theology in the real world.
In the words of Stacia McDermott, director of spiritual life and peace and justice at Loras College, “Graceann is not afraid of confronting difficult issues and deeply desires to be a person of faith and integrity. Her leadership has made a tremendous impact on her peers.”
Graceann Beckett, a beacon of change, is living proof that compassion, applied theology, and determined action can bring about transformative results.
About Father Boyle & Homeboy Industries