Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., to speak at Notre Dame Sept. 12

Author: John Guimond

Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J.

Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., author and world-renowned advocate against the death penalty, will deliver the annual Rev. Bernie Clark, C.S.C., Lecture and participate in a book signing beginning at 7 p.m. on Sept. 12 (Monday) in the Andrews Auditorium of Geddes Hall at the University of Notre Dame.

Sister Prejean will present “Building Justice in the World: Confronting Evil,” speaking about her experiences of confronting evil with justice based in gospel values.

Sponsored by the Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, the event is free and open to the public.

A native of Baton Rouge, La., Sister Prejean joined the Congregation of St. Joseph of Medaille in 1957, and traces her involvement in the issue of capital punishment to her realization that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel.

In 1982, at the request of a friend, Sister Prejean began a correspondence with Elmo Patrick Sonnier, a 27-year-old death row resident convicted in the murder of a teen-age couple. As the date for Sonnier’s execution approached, she became his close friend and spiritual counselor, eventually witnessing his electrocution. Since then she has accompanied six men to their execution as a counselor and witnessed their deaths.

Sister Prejean related her experiences with Sonnier in “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States,” a book that was turned into an Academy Award-winning motion picture in 1996 and made her an internationally prominent opponent of capital punishment. She is also author of “The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions” and is presently at work on another book, “River Of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.”

Among the many honors bestowed upon her, Sister Prejean received the Laetare Medal, Notre Dame’s highest honor, in 1996, and she has been a finalist for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Contact: Bill Purcell, associate director for Catholic social tradition and practice, Center for Social Concerns 574-631-9473,