Sr. Helen Prejean inspires San Diego
Several hundred people gave a standing ovation to Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, author and anti-death penalty activist, at The Immaculata Church on the University of San Diego campus on Sunday, November 20, 2011. Sr. Prejean spoke on the topic “Dead Man Walking – The Journey Continues.” (You can view this inspiring presentation below.)
Invited by IVC San Diego and co-hosted by The Immaculata and seven USD departments (University Ministry, the College of Arts and Sciences, Center for Catholic Thought and Culture, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, the School of Law, the Center for Educational Excellence, and the Department of Sociology), the event was piggy-backed by California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty (http://www.californiapeopleoffaith.org/) through the recently launched SAFE Campaign (http://www.safecalifornia.org/) to place an initiative on the 2012 ballot to abolish the death penalty.
Sr. Helen, who entered the Congregation of St. Joseph at the age of 18 and quietly spent her early years as a young nun teaching religion to junior high students, soon realized that being on the side of people who are poor and marginalized is an essential part of the Gospel. This awareness caused her to move into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans where she began working at Hope House in the early ‘80s.
It was during this time that she was asked to correspond with a death row inmate, Patrick Sonnier, in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. She agreed and became his spiritual advisor, not dreaming that this simple “yes” would send her on a spiritual trajectory that she never could have imagined.
After witnessing Sonnier’s execution, Sr. Helen wrote a book about the experience entitled DEAD MAN WALKING: AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE UNITED STATES which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, translated into 12 languages and became a movie, an opera, and a play for high schools and colleges.
Since 1984, Sr. Helen has divided her time between educating people around the world about the death penalty and counseling death row prisoners and families of murder victims. To date, she has accompanied six men to their deaths. In doing so, she has come to believe that some who have been executed were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, THE DEATH OF INNOCENTS: AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF WRONGFUL EXECUTIONS.
Passionate, gutsy, humble, quietly relentless, and a voice that is unafraid to speak truth to power, Sr. Helen reminds us that “The dignity of every human being is worth more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”
For more pictures of this event, please go to: Picasa Gallery