Building Justice in the World: Dead Man Walking—The Journey Continues


Location: Geddes Hall, Andrews Auditorium

Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J.; author, Dead Man Walking

Sister Helen Prejean has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s newly vigorous opposition to state executions. She travels around the world giving talks about her ministry and considers herself a Southern storyteller. She is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph and spent her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students.

Realizing that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel, she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and worked at Hope House from 1984 to 1986. During this time, Prejean was asked to correspond with a death row inmate, Patrick Sonnier at Angola. She agreed and became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote a book about the experience, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. The book became a movie, an opera, and a play for high schools and colleges.

Since 1984, Prejean has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths, and in doing so, she began to suspect that some of those executed were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, which was released 2004.

She is presently at work on her third book, “River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.”

This is the annual Fr. Bernie Clark lecture and is part of the Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America lecture series and gallery exhibit. A full listing of events is as follows. For more information, click on the event name.

Friday, September 2, 2011–Saturday, December 31, 2011
Ongoing Exhibit at the South Bend Center for History: Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America

Monday, September 12, 2011
Lecture and Book Signing: Helen Prejean, C.S.J.
Helen Prejean, C.S.J., author and advocate against the death penalty

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Lecture: Corita Breaking (All) the Rules
Barbara M. Loste, Eastern Washington University

Thursday, September 15, 2011
Film Screening and Panel Discussion: The Mighty Macs

Saturday, September 24, 2011
Lecture: The Future of Religious Life
Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M., Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley at Santa Clara

Sunday, October 2, 2011
Lecture: Sisters, Saints, and Citizens: Canonization in America
Kathleen Sprows Cummings, University of Notre Dame

Thursday, October 13, 2011
Lecture: Long and Short Perspectives: A Twenty-First Century Historian Looks at Medieval Women and Religion
Caroline Walker Bynum, Columbia University

Thursday, November 3, 2011
American Catholic Studies Seminar: Black Nuns and the Struggle to Desegregate Catholic Sisterhoods after WWII
Shannen Dee Williams, Rutgers University
Commentator: Diane Batts Morrow; University of Georgia, Athens

Friday, November 4, 2011
Cushwa Center Lecture: The Experience of the Oblate Sisters of Providence During the Civil War
Diane Batts Morrow; University of Georgia, Athens

Saturday, November 5, 2011
Seminar in American Religion: Civilizing Habits: Women Missionaries and the Revival of the French Empire
Sarah Curtis, San Francisco State University
Commentators: Angelyn Dries, O.S.F., Saint Louis University; Thomas Kselman, University of Notre Dame

Saturday, November 5, 2011
Screening With Panel Discussion: Band of Sisters
Mary Fishman ’82, producer/director of Band of Sisters

This series is a project of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. It is sponsored by:

Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism
Office of the President
Alliance for Catholic Education
DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts
Department of American Studies
Department of History
Office of Campus Ministry
Center for Social Concerns
Center for Spirituality, Saint Mary’s College
South Bend Center for History

For additional information, please see the Center for History website.