On June 5, 2003 S. Helen Prejean, CSJ, received an honorary Doctor of Ministry from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Thomas Berry, C.P. was also honored with an honorary Doctor of Theology at the commencement. Each year women and men are honored at the graduation ceremony of about 100 students from Masters and Doctoral programs who are witnesses to the Gospel in their particular mission to make the world a better place for all.
HELEN PREJEAN, C.S.J., Doctor of Ministry, honoris causa
A Sister of St. Joseph, Helen Prejean has worked as a director of religious education, a high school teacher, a pastoral minister to residents of an inner-city housing project, and the formation director for her own religious community. However, it is her ministry with death row inmates and victims’ families that has brought her international recognition. While she has accompanied five men to their deaths by execution, she has also worked with murder victims’ families and is founder of a group in New Orleans call Survive. She is an honorary member of Murder Victims for Reconciliation and serves with numerous national and international organizations working to abolish the death penalty. Her best-selling book Dead Man Walking has been translated into 12 languages and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In 1996, it was made into a motion picture by Tim Robbins, and in 2000, the San Francisco Opera Company performed the world premiere of the operatic version of the book. She has been honored worldwide for her remarkable work on behalf of those imprisoned as well as the families of victims, and in eliminating the death penalty.
THOMAS BERRY, C.P., Doctor of Theology, honoris causa
Passionist priest Thomas Berry was teaching in the Passionist seminary when his deep interest in Asian religions inspired him to study Chinese in Peking and Sanskrit at Columbia University. He later taught world religions at three eastern universities (Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Fordham) and organized the Riverdale Center of Religious Research. His books include The Historical Theory of Giambattista Vico, Buddhism, Religions of India. A passion for the natural world cultivated in childhood led to his research and writing in ecology which first appeared in the Riverdale Papers. Although ecologically sensitive writers had quoted Rev. Barry for years, his book The Dream of the Earth was not published until 1988 by Sierra Club Books. It was followed byBefriending the Earth, 1991, and The Universe Story, co-authored with Brian Swimme, 1992. Holder of numerous honorary doctorates, he has been recognized by organizations as diverse as the Humane Society, The Temple of Understanding, The Catholic University of American, and the Club of Budapest.