Sister Helen Prejean

Challenging the death penalty

posted by: Zinzi Eka-Naphtali
published: 22nd December 2012
Any news or updates listed at the foot of this item

Sister Helen Prejean, an anti-death penalty activist and author whose legal and religious arguments against “state-sanctioned executions” have sparked international dialogue, spoke at Emory’s Oxford College campus on Sept. 18 about her life’s work.

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Prejean began her prison ministry in 1981, when she dedicated her life to the poor of New Orleans. She went on to become a spiritual adviser to Patrick Sonnier, a death-row inmate at Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. After witnessing his execution, she wrote “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States,” which has been adapted into an award-winning film, a play and an opera.

She has since served as spiritual adviser to several death-row inmates and has accompanied six people to their executions.

Her visit was hosted by Oxford Chaplain Lyn Pace and sponsored by Oxford College’s Pierce Institute for Leadership and Community Engagement.

While visiting Emory’s Aquinas Center of Theology, Prejean sat down with Emory Report to discuss her work and spiritual life:

What message are you bringing to the Emory community?

Well, it’s about spiritual life as waking up and reaching out and taking responsibility. So I’m going to be sharing my own faith journey and waking up to the Gospel of Justice. Not just simply being charitable to people — being nice, being kind — but of justice and addressing some of the huge issues of the day.

I’m also going to be talking about the Catholic journey in the development of opposition to the death penalty.

There’s been a real development within the Catholic Church. Last November, Pope Benedict called upon Catholics to work against the death penalty. He said to organize and engage in the political legislative process to end the death penalty. So that was good; we’d been waiting for that.

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Related Articles:

Sister Helen Prejean interview with FRONTLINE
Sister Helen Prejean is known internationally for her tireless work against the death penalty. She works with the Death Penalty Discourse Network, whose programs include The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project and the Moratorium Campaign.

The Real Woman Behind Dead Man Walking …
A remarkable chain of events led her to become a Death Row counselor. Now Sister Helen’s story is playing on movie screens throughout the world in one of the most acclaimed films of the year.

Sister Helen Prejean (Wikipedia)

Sister Helen talks (Video)
Sister Helen Prejean talks to Patricia Gras about the current status of the death penalty and changes that are happening.

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