Sister Helen Prejean, the author of “Dead Man Walking,” will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday April 17, at the WSU Hughes Metropolitan Complex in Wichita.
The diocesan office of Respect Life and Social Justice is also hosting a breakfast with Sister Prejean at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita.
Sister Helen 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.
The talk at WSU is free and is sponsored by the diocesan Respect Life and Social Justice Office and hosted by Holy Savior Parish.
Sister Helen, who considers herself a southern storyteller, is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. She spent her first years with the order 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 began working at Hope House from 1981 to 1984.
During this time, she was asked to correspond with a death row inmate Patrick Sonnier at Angola Prison. She agreed and became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote a book about the experience. The result was Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. It became a movie, an opera, and a play for high schools and colleges.
Since 1984, Sister Helen 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.
A bill to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life without parole was introduced March 7 into the Kansas House of Representatives.
HB 2397 also establishes a fund to help the families of murder victims and provide for mental health services by redirecting savings that will come from abolishing the death penalty. A similar bill, SB 126, was introduced in the Senate in February.
Breakfast with Sr. Prejean April 17 at the SLC, Wichita