Sister Helen Prejean on the Death Penalty and the Church, Nov. 7

Sister Helen Prejean on the Death Penalty and the Church, Nov. 7

Activist and author Sister Helen Prejean returns to Fairfield to discuss abolishing the death penalty in the United States.

On Wednesday, November 7, Sister Helen Prejean will present her lecture, “Abolishing the Death Penalty in the United States,” at Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola at 7 p.m. Free and open to the public, the event is co-sponsored by Fairfield University’s Canisius Academy and Center for Catholic Studies.

The topic of the lecture follows Pope Francis’s declaration stating the death penalty to be inadmissible in all circumstances. Sr. Helen Prejean, a member of The Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, has played a pivotal role in sparking a national dialogue against capital punishment through her passionate speeches, critically acclaimed biographies, and tireless ministry work. The event will discuss the pressing issues revolving around capital punishment, the Pope’s recent revision of the Catechism’s stance on the death penalty, and will feature Sr. Prejean’s experiences as well.

"Sister Helen Prejean has proven herself, over decades, to be one of the most faithful figures in the church and society,” stated Dan Cossacchi, PhD, Canisius postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in the Religious Studies department. “Her indefatigable work to abolish the death penalty in the United States has born so much fruit.”

After beginning her prison ministry in 1981, Sr. Prejean witnessed the executions of several death row inmates and was driven to speak out about the moral injustices she observed. Her experiences in the prison system ultimately inspired the publication of her first memoir entitled Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. The book became an international success, spending 31 consecutive weeks on The New York Times' Best Sellers list, in addition to earning a spot in the 1994 American Library Association's Notable Books list. In January of 1996, the book was adapted into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon in the role of Sr. Helen, and Sean Penn as an inmate on death row. The film received four Academy Award nominations, with Susan Sarandon winning the Oscar for Best Actress.

Sr. Prejean published a second book in December of 2004 entitled, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, which chronicles common failures in court procedures and exposes the flaws within the United States penalty system. These flaws, she argues, lead to the immoral and wrongful executions of innocent prisoners. Today, Sr. Prejean counsels individuals on death row along with murder victims’ families, and continues to campaign against the death penalty. Her third book, River of Fire, will discuss similar notions and is set to be released in early 2019.

On Sr. Prejean’s impact, Cosacchi continued, “Not only has her public advocacy helped some governors to offer clemency to people on death row, but her work has also helped in overturning death sentences for people who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. She has changed the hearts of many people who once believed the death penalty was morally acceptable.”

Abolishing the Death Penalty in the United States: An Evening with Sister Helen Prejean

Date: Wednesday, November 7
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Fairfield University Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola

Additional Details:

The event is free and open to the public.

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Last modified: 10-12-18 1:09 PM

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