St. Joseph’s Academy continued the celebration of its 150th anniversary with the first in its year-long speaker series. Sister Helen Prejean, a 1957 graduate of SJA, spoke to students, faculty and staff on September 11 in the new Student Activity Center.
Sister Helen is a best-selling author and leading advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. She began her prison ministry in 1981 and became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, sentenced to die in the electric chair at Louisiana’s Angola State Prison for the murder of two teenagers. She visited him as his spiritual advisor, and those visits “set her soul on fire.” Sister Helen described her experiences in Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty
, which was number one on the New York Times
Best Seller List for 31 weeks. It was also developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen.
Her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions
, was published in 2004. She recently finished her memoir, River of Fire
, which will be published later this year.
Sister Helen is the founder of Survive, a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans, and she continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but the families of murder victims, as well.
about Sister Helen’s talk in the September 12 edition of The Advocate. See photos
by Advocate staff photographer Travis Spradling here. Her talk was also live streamed on the Academy’s Facebook page.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos by Jennifer M. Fontaine