Spring 2021 Shared Reading Experience: Barking to the Choir by Fr. Greg Boyle

Looking for an enriching Lenten activity? Join ND Clubs, ND Women Connect groups, and members of the ND family around the globe for a Shared Read of Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Fr. Greg Boyle, beginning in February 2021. 

Barking to the Choir: Join Us for the Spring 2021 Shared Reading Experience

by Susan Krenn '04

Looking for a Lenten activity that will simultaneously offer inspiration and make you think? Join ND Clubs, ND Women Connect groups, and members of the ND family around the globe for our 11th Shared Reading Experience, which will begin next month. Many of you participated in the inaugural Collaborative Shared Read of Black Domers this past fall (thank you!). If you didn’t get a chance to see the extensive collection of decade-specific supplementary materials, including video interviews with Black Domers essayists, relevant articles, podcasts, and more, please visit this site

For our Spring 2021 Shared Read event, we hope you’ll take part as we unpack Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Fr. Gregory Boyle, a Notre Dame Laetare Medal honoree. We’re looking forward to lively discussion as we continue to explore many of the themes that surfaced in our Black Domers conversation: resilience, hope, compassion, and their intersection with pressing issues like racial justice and our treatment of those on the fringes of society. 

In Barking to the Choir, readers return to Homeboy Industries, the site of Fr. Greg’s bestselling book, Tattoos on the Heart. Fr. Greg founded the organization in 1988 as a way of improving the lives of former gang members in East Los Angeles. Since then, Homeboy Industries has evolved into the largest gang intervention, rehab, and re-entry program in the world. 

Each year thousands of former gang members come through Homeboy Industries’ doors in an effort to make a positive change. They are welcomed into a community of mutual kinship, love, and a wide variety of services ranging from tattoo removal to anger management and parenting classes. 200 men and women at a time engage in full-time employment through an 18-month program that offers job training and helps them re-identify who they are in the world, allowing them to move on and become contributing members of the community.

In a nation deeply divided and plagued by poverty and violence, Barking to the Choir offers a snapshot into the challenges and joys of life on the margins. Sergio, arrested at nine, in a gang by twelve, and serving time shortly thereafter, now works with the substance-abuse team at Homeboy to help others find sobriety. Jamal, abandoned by his family when he tried to attend school at age seven, gradually finds forgive­ness for his schizophrenic mother. New father Cuco, who never knew his own dad, thinks of a daily adventure on which to take his four-year-old son. These former gang members uplift the soul and reveal how bright life can be when filled with unconditional love and kindness.

Read with us this Lent as we explore the themes of compassion and kinship through Fr. Boyle’s engaging storytelling. 

Here's how you can participate in the Spring 2021 Shared Read

  • READ.  Pick up a copy of Barking to the Choir and read along with us.

  • JOIN.  Participate in our virtual discussion via the Shared Read Facebook group (begins Wednesday, February 17 and wraps up on Thursday, April 1). You'll get a suggested reading schedule as well as reflection questions, background info about the author and more. All are encouraged to follow along and post questions and comments on the group page.

  • DISCUSS.  In addition to the online conversation, you may check with your ND Club or NDWC local group (if applicable) to see if they are planning an in-person discussion in February/March/April or beyond. Scheduled meet-ups will also be posted on the Shared Read Facebook group.

Love reading? We need your help!

To ensure a thought-provoking discussion, we need a range of voices bringing their own unique experiences and opinions. That’s where you come in! Please consider becoming a Shared Read volunteer for the Spring 2021 event. Here’s what you need to know:

  • What does it involve? Shared Read volunteers commit to reading the book and posting brief questions/observations/other interesting content to the virtual discussion via Facebook once a week for 6 weeks starting February 17 (more frequently, if you choose).

  • Do I have to be a "book expert" to volunteer? No expertise or special knowledge needed, and you don't need to worry about finishing the book before we begin. While some will have already finished reading by February 17, others may choose to follow our suggested reading schedule (average of 40 pages/week during the online discussion period) and post a question or comment that relates to what they've read thus far.

  • What if I'm not on Facebook? While we know that not everyone has a Facebook account, this is the most accessible platform for our discussion (at least for right now). Fortunately, it's free to sign up. If you wish, you can always create a Facebook account, join the NDWC Shared Read group, and close your account once the discussion is over.

I'm interested! What's next?

Email NDWC Shared Read Coordinator Susan Krenn ’04 at susannah@alumni.nd.edu. She'll ask you to pick a particular day of the week for your Facebook posts, e.g., every Tuesday during the 6-week event. She’ll also send you some sample posts so you have a better sense of what sort of content to contribute.

Thanks for considering & we look forward to reading with you! Don’t forget to join the Shared Read Facebook group to follow along and share your thoughts with other members of the ND community.

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