Department ofReligious Studies


Sister Helen Prejean Visit

On April 13, Sister Helen Prejean visited the department's "Catholic Social Thought" section during the course of her stay for the second annual Dean's Leadership Forum. To make the most of her visit, the class read several articles on capital punishment and the Catholic tradition, including some essays Sr. Helen had authored connecting the death penalty to societal wounds such as racism, poverty and a culture of violence. Sr. Helen shared her personal journey of involvement very candidly with the class, tracing the narrative recounted in the award-winning Dead Man Walking and the recalling her visit with Pope John Paul II to discuss Catholic teaching on capital punishment.

Sister Helen Prejean speaks to class on capital punishment and the Catholic tradition.

She captivated the students with her insights and courage, and they seemed delighted and a bit surprised by her thoroughgoing warmth, humor and no-nonsense approach. Sr. Helen spoke directly about the Dzhokhar Tszarnaev trial then underway, which she would go on to testify at regarding her impressions of Tszarnaev's remorse several weeks later in light of her visits with him.

The most memorable line she delivered was to caution that no one should be "freeze framed into the worst act they ever committed." This was a fitting note to sound for themes of the Catholic social thought course and Jesuit education more broadly. Sr. Helen delivered a public campus lecture that evening and had conversation with Paul Crowley, S.J. during the Q&A that followed, and she joined Martin Sheen in conversation with the campus community the following night.

religious studies
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