Now that her story has been told in print, on screen, on the theater stage, and even in opera houses, Sister Helen Prejean finds herself looking back upon her Dead Man Walking experience with her upcoming book, River of Fire: A Spiritual Journey to Death Row. In it, Sister Prejean aims to take the reader back in time with her as she chronicles her personal awakening to the cause that became the source of her international standing today - fighting the death penalty. Appearing recently at the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Center as part of the organization’s Speaker Series, Sister Prejean gave the packed house an early listen by reading from the book’s prelude before lauching into a passionate and engaging talk.
For well over an hour Sister Prejean opened up about her personal background, life as a nun, and experience with the justice system, easily moving between levity and severity as she spoke. She told the audience that the death penalty must be abolished for a myriad of reasons including moral, ethical, statistical, and budgetary ones; her overall message being that the death penalty is simply too costly in every respect. Sister Prejean also had kind words for Maryknoll itself, enthusiastically extolling the virtues of its members’ missionary work more than once during her talk.
After taking questions and comments from the lectern, Sister Prejean spent another hour or so meeting audience members and signing copies of her two books; 1993’s Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and subsequently adapted into an Oscar-winning film, as well as a stage play and opera) and 2004’s The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions. Reflecting on her day at Maryknoll, Sister Prejean said, “I’m not the one doing the favor by coming here - I will come away from here with the fire burning brighter inside of me from having been here.”
Click here for video of Sister Helen Prejean’s appearance and Maryknoll’s interview with her.