DID YOU KNOW?

that on May 31, 2009 Sr. Helen and Lt. Dan Choi spoke to the Orange County Equality Coalition? Download this scrapbook scrapbook PDF from the Irvine United Congregational Church.

(Thanks to Suellen Rowe for the photos and Scrapbook PDF)

DID YOU KNOW?

that on March 9, 2009, Sister Helen Prejean spoke out for the repeal of the Death Penalty in Maryland. Her remarks were made at St. Anne’s Church in Annapolis, MD, near the State House where the General Assembly meets. Sister Prejean also ripped former President and ex-Texas Governor, George W. Bush, and his then legal counsel, Alberto “Gonzo” Gonzales, for the cursory manner in which they carried out hundreds of executions of condemned prisoners in Texas. Ms. Jane Henderson served as the moderator for the event, which was sponsored by the Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, (CASE MARYLAND). For background on the death penalty issue, please go to CASE MARYLAND. Check out, too, George Orwell’s account of witnessing an execution in British-controlled Burma, in his compelling short story, “A Hanging.”

(Thanks to William Hughes for the summary and posting the YouTube video.)

DID YOU KNOW?

that Sr. Helen and Sr. Marya Grathwohl, OSF attended the Women’s International Peace Summit in Jaipur, India?

DID YOU KNOW?

that the DEAD MAN WALKING Opera will be performed in the following places:

  • Boulder, Co Opera (Oct 25, 2007)
  • Malmo Opera (2006-2007)
  • Sydney, Australia (2007)
  • Dresden Semperoper (2007)
  • Vienna Klangbogen Festival (Sept. 1, 2007)
  • Hagen, Germany (Sept. - Jan. 2007-2008)
  • Dublin, Ireland (Nov. 2007).

 

DID YOU KNOW?

that Sister Helen is presently (2007) working on a new book - RIVER OF FIRE: MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY TO DEATH ROW. You will be kept informed as the book progresses.

DID YOU KNOW?

that in May 2005, Sister Helen received the Peace Prize of the City of Ypres? Awarded every three years by the Belgian city, the Peace Prize recognizes those who have made important contributions to peace on earth.

Significantly, the recipient of the award is decided by the youth of Ypres and other areas of Flanders. The short list of finalists is chosen by an international committee of specialists, and then submitted to secondary school students along with supporting materials. After studying each of the nominations, the students vote. In this way, the award not only recognizes the contributions of the nominees, but also helps students learn about the work of those involved in seeking a more peaceful and just society.

DID YOU KNOW?

that Sr. Helen led a freshman First-Year Experience panel presentation at Loyola University in September 2003? The event featured exonerated death row inmate Ray Krone (center) and Loyola Provost and Vice President for Acadmeic Affairs Walter Harris, Jr. (at podium). As part of a nationwide reading program, freshmen were asked to read Prejean’s Dead Man Walking and attend the panel, presented to an overflow crowd in Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall.

DID YOU KNOW?

that on Palm Sunday 2004, Sr. Helen spoke from the Trinity Cathedral pulpit in the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio?  No photographer was present, but this drawing by a homeless man, captured the power of her presentation. He was one of Trinity’s Sunday Lunch guests.

DID YOU KNOW?

that on March 27, 2004, Sister Helen participated in the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival?  The festival is an annual five-day celebration which showcases national and regional scholars, writers, and performing artists. Programs include panel discussions, theatrical performances, a one-act play competition, lectures, literary walking tours, musical performances, and a book fair.  Sister Helen’s two sessions included a panel discussion on Prison Writing and a Conversation on the Journey of Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues.

Seeking Justice in Texas

On Thursday evening, February 26, 2004, a gathering of 350 people dined at the Warwick Hotel in Houston and listened to an enthralling account by Sister Helen Prejean with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille of events leading to the writing of her book, Dead Man Walking. She was joined by the star of the movie made from that book, Susan Sarandon, who shared her experiences reading the book and her determination to see it put on film.

Honored at the event were the Texas Defender Service and the Texas Innocence Network. Jim Marcus of the Texas Defender Service spoke to the group about their efforts to improve the quality of representation of indigent Texans who are under the sentence of death. He shared some examples of the problems that currently plague the capital appeals process.

Two men who were exonerated after spending lengthy periods on Texas death row were introduced to the crowd by Mike DeGeurin and Paul Nugent, partners with Foreman, DeGeurin and Nugent, the firm that successfully represented them in their appeals. Clarence Brandley, wrongfully convicted for the murder of a high school cheerleader in Conroe spent nine years on death row. Kerry Max Cook, served over twenty years on death row before his exoneration in the death of a young woman in Tyler.

Earlier in the day Susan Sarandon and Sister Helen Prejean spoke to an enthusiastic group of high school and university students, many of whom had participated in an anti-death penalty interactive booth at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Houston in November. Following Sister Helen’s presentation, they presented her with a stack of several thousand signatures they had obtained in support of a Moratorium on Executions, which is an international movement spearheaded by her.

The art of Texas death row prisoner, James Allridge III, was featured at the event.

This event was sponsored by Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Dave Atwood, former state president, was both the coordinator and the master of ceremonies for both the afternoon and evening affairs.

DID YOU KNOW?

that S. Helen’s meditations were set to music by Jake Heggie, a leading composer of art song and opera in America? It’s entitled The Deepest Desire: Four Dramatic Songs of Praise. Also, Heggie is the composer of the Dead Man Walking Opera.

On October 20, 2003, at the Lincoln Center in New York, singer Joyce Di Donato, performed a song cycle which included S. Helen’s and Heggie’s work. Ms. Di Donato, also played S. Helen in the NY Opera production of Dead Man Walking.

The Deepest Desire: Four Dramatic Songs of Praise
Text: Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ
Composer: Jake Heggie

Prelude: The Call

More is required
More is required than being swept along—
All the currents pulling me
Easy and wide in a long, slow drift –
Without rudder, floating backwards, now to the side.
What can one person do against a sucking tide?

I coil like a bow;
I gather like a fist;
I forge like a rudder
And I lean into the wide, slow drift.

I tack and veer by God’s own will.
I raise my voice against the silence.
My voice alone until a chorus joins.

Love

Love is the pure energy of God: pray for it ardently.
Be grateful when it comes into your life: give of it generously.
Lavish it on others: even the undeserving ones.
Cultivate friendship with care: it is the best love of all.

I catch on fire
Long black dress to my toes– Flowing black sleeves and veil.
A walking bolt of black material.
Fourth grade religion class–Teaching full force:
The gospel according to …
Lit candle.

Fifty little eyes wide. Twenty-five voices shout:
“ Sister! Sister! You’re on fire!”

Flames shooting. Hands beating.
Silence. Breathing.

Children, this teaches us always to be careful with fire.

Now, years later, when I pray
I catch on fire.
Amen.

The deepest desire
I thought I knew my heart’s desire:
To love God. To be with God in Heaven
A bud unfolding; a dutiful, prayerful nun.
I pleased God, I thought,
By being obedient.
It made me feel holy.

But getting to heaven takes a long time.
And dwelling far below was a Voice, calling:
“ Lose yourself!”
“ Lose yourself upon the deeper currents!”

Then I heard cries from the heart of the city:
“ Is there life before death?”
I saw. I heard. I followed.
I made my way to prison cells.
I made my way to death chambers.
I saw. I heard. I followed.
I witnessed.

A desire for justice woke in me.
A fierce desire that will not let go.
The deepest desire.
The deepest desire of my heart.
“ Come home!”
“ Come home!”
“ Come home!”

Primary colors

I live my life in primary colors.
I let praise and blame fall where they may.
I hold my soul in equanimity
And leave the fruits of my labors to God.
At night, when I pray, I catch on fire.
And When I put my head on the pillow,
I fall instantly to sleep.

DID YOU KNOW?

on September 25, 2003, S. Helen took part in the Gilvary Symposium at the University of Dayton, School of Law, in Dayton, Ohio? In the large audience that evening, were students who had an assignment to write a reflection paper on S. Helen’s talk. The following are excerpts from some of those papers:

“ When I think of celebrities, they seem larger than life, untouchable, and extraordinary. But S. Helen is able to communicate with you as though you are on the same level, though many of us clearly are not. This ability helps her to be such a powerful speaker and allows her to captivate every single person in the room.”

“ The overall impact of her speech had on me was that I simply need to be more aware. I need to know how our justice system works or doesn’t work and why it is this way and what I can do to help. I realize that just not listening or acknowledging certain things in society is definitely not going to help them go away or be solved. I need to act, not just talk about what needs to be done.”

“ After attending the overwhelmingly powerful speech given by S. Helen, I could not stop thinking about the horrible effects of capital punishment in our country. I had remained neutral on my opinion of the death penalty until listening to the convincing words of S. Helen.”

“ Overall I believe that S. Prejean was a very good speaker and had many funny stories, but on the whole I did not agree with anything she had to say.”

“ I learned many things from S. Helen. One thing was how much this story changed S. Helen’s life. She went from a regular old nun to a woman who has touched many lives.”

“ S. Helen made me realize just how prejudice and unjust the system is. Lastly, I realized that I have to begin to help and act if I want to improve the justice system.”

“ S. Helen said her friend in jail made her a picture frame out of cigarette paper. This made him seem so much more real than I had thought of him in the past. Plus, it showed me that people like him still have feelings and want to show kindness towards others.

S. Helen opened up my eyes and showed me how people getting the death penalty are real.”

“ S. Helen’s talk opened my eyes to the death penalty. It is not an issue I have often thought about because it can be very difficult and uncomfortable. Her words helped me to realize that there are things wrong with the system that we have and that we can’t just follow it blindly.”

DID YOU KNOW…

that The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the world’s largest organization of public relations professionals, held its 56th annual international conference in New Orleans on October 25 - 28, 2003?  The theme was “Building Credibility, Confidence, and Respect.”  Sister Helen was the keynote speaker and addressed over 2,000 members of the PRSA.  Her talk brought members to their feet with a standing ovation.

DID YOU KNOW…

that Dean Man Walking Opera held in Austin, TX  in Jan. 2003, received a Certificate of Achievement for:  “Outstanding Production”?  The following letter was received from Molly Browning of the Austin Lyric Opera

We are still getting raves about Dead Man and awards.  In June it got an “Outstanding Opera” award from Austin Critics Table Award and earlier in the week we received the B. Iden Payne Award (It’s sort of our local Academy Awards) for “Outstanding Production.”  The following is the speech that named us:  “Among the abundance of talent we see in Austin theatre each year there are always productions that do not quite fit “traditional” categories or criteria.  In order to recognize these unique achievements each season the nominating committee may elect to award individual Certificates of Outstanding Achievement.  Although this year’s recipient had only four public performances rather than the requisite six, it was seen by nearly 12,000 people.  Whether considered a drama, an opera or a musical it was a riveting production — in any genre — a new work by a new composer with the courage to address extremely difficult controversial subject matter (both ethically and politically), and to do so in ways that were equally intense in their theatricality.  For these reasons the nominating committee would like to award a special Certificate of Achievement for:  “Outstanding Production” to Dead Man Walking.

DID YOU KNOW…

… that the University of Maryland in College Park selected Dead Man Walking as their First Year Book for the academic year 2003-2004? All first year students are gifted with a book from the university which they read and discuss in selected classes. The book was selected by a campus-wide committee of students, faculty, and staff. The committee selected the book because they believed that it was particularly relevant to current debates on capital punishment in the State of Maryland and to faculty research initiatives on the campus. Sister Helen will speak to the campus community on November 13, 2003

… that Loyola University in New Orleans has gifted all incoming Freshmen for the academic year 2003-2004 with the book Dead Man Walking? Sister Helen will be speaking on their campus September 2, 2003.

Mastodon