Sister Helen Prejean Visits

Sister Helen Prejean gives a presentation on her spiritual journey with the death penalty Nov. 6 in the gym.


Kate Vankeirsbilck

Sr. Helen Prejean, from “Dead Man Walking” fame, shared about her experience with the death penalty Nov. 6 in the gym. “I’ve been so seared by watching people be strapped down and killed,” Prejean said. “And I know what my mission is. It’s to get that story out.”

Callie Cameron, A&E Editor

Guest speaker Sister Helen Prejean visited Nov. 6 in the gym to share about her journey with the death penalty as an author. Students have been studying her novel “Dead Man Walking,” which was later made into an Academy award-winning movie in 1995.

“It was interesting to hear someone applying themselves to what we’ve been learning in class,” sophomore Liesl Riffe said. ”One nun has made such a difference and affected so many people.”

Prejean began her work in activism through exchanging letters with an inmate named Patrick Sonnier, who was convicted of the murder and rape of two teens in Lousiana. Prejean met him in person and later accompanied Sonnier to his death in the electric chair. 

“I have been so seared by watching people strapped down and killed, and I know what my mission is, it’s to get that story out,” Prejean said. “Every time they come to me or make a big deal about me, I know I can be an instrument. It’s bigger than me.”

Since her experience with Sonnier and a few other death row inmates, Prejean continues her journey with her Catholic faith leading her activism. Through the course of her advocacy, she encountered two Popes: Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis. In August 2018, the Catholic Church revised its Catechism to state that the Church now teaches that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person. 

“She made me think more about it,” junior Jadon Clarkson said. “She definitely opened my eyes more.”

She told students the best way to get involved is to join a coalition against the death penalty. Prejean also said to check out her website,, which has information about everything- from how to write a letter to an inmate, to her upcoming events. She speaks at schools, colleges, churches and conferences.

“We are all worth more than our worst act. The only way it’s going to change is if we get involved,” Prejean said. ”Never underestimate what you as a young person can do.”