Helen Prejean


Quotations from Helen Prejean


  • Helen Prejean"What enables the death penalty to continue is detachment. It is executions that are carried out in secret with the trappings of a clinical procedure. Telling stories is what will turn that around. Yet if we are not engaged with death row inmates and with the families of victims, we cannot hear their stories. The truth will set people free when they have the opportunity to hear it. And that is our task - to tell the stories. When we hear the stories, the dead man does walk. The role of the religious community is to reconcile what seems irreconcilable: love for death row inmates and their human dignity, and love for murder victims and their dignity -- and compassion for the hurt of their family members. Our spiritual energy can unite and combine what ideology alone can never bring together. We are lovers of justice and lovers of human beings. " --Telling Our Stories

  • "In our society forgiveness is often seen as weakness. People who forgive those who have hurt them or their family are made to look as if they don't really care about their loved ones. " -- Helen Prejean, C.S.J. Dead Man Walking

  •      "People ask me all the time, "What are you, a nun, doing getting involved with these murderers?" You know how people have these stereotypical ideas about nuns: nuns teach; nuns nurse the sick. I tell people to go back to the gospel. Look at who Jesus hung out with: lepers, prostitutes, thieves—the throwaways of his day. If we call ourselves Jesus' disciples, we too have to keep ministering to the marginated, the throwaways, the lepers of today. And there are no more marginated, thrown-away, and leprous people in our society than death-row inmates."
    Jesus Christ, whose way of life I try to follow, refused to meet hate with hate and violence with violence. I pray for the strength to be like him. -- Would Jesus pull the switch by Sister Helen Prejean

  •      " I came face-to-face with the brutality of state-sponsored killing in 1982, when I became the spiritual advisor of Louisiana death row prisoner Pat Sonier. I quickly learned that the death penalty only makes more victims. It is levied with promises of justice, but it wrecks only vengeance. And once I had confronted God in a prisoner, even a convicted murderer like Pat, I could no longer stand by idly while the state took his life. I wrote my book, Dead Man Walking, to give people a window into one of our nation's death chambers. Thanks to Susan and director Tim Robbins, Dead Man Walking is now a film that is touching a wide audience. As I travel the country speaking about the death penalty I feel its impact." -- Moratorium Now!

  •      "Nuns have begun to get involved in social justice for the past twenty years and so there is nothing incongruous about being involved in social justice and human rights and being a nun. We left that behind that image of only doing certain things like teaching children and nursing the sick a long time ago. In fact nuns from all over the country have been writing to me saying at last a film that does not portray us as flying nuns, flaky nuns or nuns on roller skates, but really shows our lives for what they are. -- Suzanne Vega - Message Boards - Interview Transcript - Sister Helen Prejean
  • Execution is the opposite of baptism into a community. Baptism into a community means "We are all connected, we are all one family and you are part of us." And execution is removing a person from the human family, step by step, saying, "You are no longer part of us. You are not human, like we are, and so we can terminate you." When you hear of the terrible things people have done, you can say they deserve to die, but the key moral question is "Do we deserve to kill?"". -- Angel on death row transcript

  • A prayer by Sister Helen Prejean God of Compassion, You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust. Expand and deepen our hearts so that we may love as You love, even those among us who have caused the greatest pain by taking life. For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance as we fill up death rows and kill the killers in the name of justice, in the name of peace. Jesus, our brother, you suffered execution at the hands of the state but you did not let hatred overcome you. Help us to reach out to victims of violence so that our enduring love may help them heal. Holy Spirit of God, You strengthen us in the struggle for justice. Help us to work tirelessly for the abolition of state-sanctioned death and to renew our society in its very heart so that violence will be no more. Amen. -- A prayer by Sister Helen Prejean
  • "We are taught in the American way of life that some life is sacred. Innocent life is sacred. I don't know that we've ever been taught that guilty life is sacred."-- The Voice of Dead Men

    Biography of Helen Prejean

  • Helen Prejean, C.S.J., is a writer, speaker, and community organizer who has lived and worked in Louisiana all her life. She has lectured extensively on the subject of capital punishment and has appeared on ABC World News Tonight, 60 Minutes, BBC World Service radio, and an NBC special series on the death penalty. Her articles have appeared in many publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Baltimore Sun. She is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, which she joined in 1957. Sister Helen currently chairs the Board of Directors of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. She delivered the speech printed below at an inter-religious service to protest the death penalty on January 24, 1995, in Albany, New York. -- Helen Prejean, C.S.J. Dead Man Walking

    Helen Prejean, C.S.J., is the author of Dead Man Walking, which was released as a major motion picture in 1996. A writer, lecturer, and community organizer, she has lived and worked in Louisiana all her life. She is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille.-- Telling Our Stories

    Other Resources

  • Helen Prejean - Extensive list of links to web sites on Helen Prejean
  • Capital Punishment and the Catholic Church