Since 1984, Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J. has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. Her spiritual guidance to death row inmate Patrick Sonnier became the subject of her book Dead Man Walking, which in turn was based on the 1995 blockbuster movie of the same name. On Tuesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. in the Martin Institute at Stonehill College, Sr. Helen will be the featured guest at the 2015 Saint Andre Lecture. All are welcome to attend.
In her years of working with prison inmates, Sr. Helen has questioned the convictions of some, leading her to her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.
Sr. Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, which has taken a public stance against capital punishment. After spending her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students, she realized that being on the side of the poor is an essential part of the Gospel. She soon moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and worked at Hope House from 1984 – 1986. It was during that time she was asked to correspond with Sonnier. After witnessing his execution, she wrote about the experience in Dead Man Walking, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for 31 weeks.
Sr. Helen has served on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1985–1995, and has served as Chairperson of the Board from 1993–1995. She is also a member of Amnesty International and an honorary member of Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation. She presently is the Honorary Chairperson of Moratorium Campaign, a group gathering signatures for a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty. On December 18, 2000 Sr. Helen, Paul Hoffman, board member of Amnesty International and Mario Marizziti, representative of The St. Egidio Community in Rome, Italy presented Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the U.N. with 2.5 million signatures from people all over the world who are calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.
She is currently working on her third book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey. As the founder of “Survive,” a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans, she continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but the families of murder victims, as well.
About the Saint Andre Lecture Series
Stonehill College hosts a biennial lecture series in honor of Saint André Bessette, C.S.C., the first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross to be canonized a saint. The ongoing theme for the lecture series is "Welcoming the Other," as Saint André spent much of his life serving as a humble porter welcoming people to the College de Notre Dame in Montreal. Every other year the College welcomes a speaker whose work or writing has explored the problem of exclusion and the possibilities for acceptance and greater understanding.