Sister Helen Prejean to Speak at College

Best-Selling Author of "Dead Man Walking" and Anti-Death Penalty Advocate

Release Date: Wednesday, April 6, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - Sister Helen Prejean, best-selling author of "Dead Man Walking" and anti-death penalty advocate, will present the lecture, "Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues" at Chestnut Hill College on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 7 p.m. in Sorgenti Arena. The lecture is sponsored by the Institute for Forgiveness and Reconciliation at Chestnut Hill College. 


Sister Helen PrejeanSister Helen began her prison ministry in 1981 when she dedicated her life to the poor of New Orleans. While living in the St. Thomas housing project, she became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, a convicted killer of two teenagers who was sentenced to die in the Louisiana Angola State Prison’s electric chair.


Upon Sonnier's request, Sister Helen repeatedly visited him as his spiritual advisor. In doing so, her eyes were opened to the Louisiana state execution process. Sister Helen turned her experiences into a book that not only made the 1994 American Library Associates Notable Book List, but was also nominated for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize. “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States” was first on the New York Times best seller list for 31 weeks. The book was also an international best seller and has been translated into ten different languages, made into an opera, and developed into a major motion picture.


Fifteen years after beginning her crusade, the Roman Catholic sister has witnessed five executions in Louisiana and today dedicates her time to educate the public about the death penalty through lectures, organizing and writing. As the founder of "Survive," a victim's advocacy group in New Orleans, Prejean continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but the families of murder victims as well.


Sister Helen served on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1985–1995, and served as Chairperson of the Board from 1993–1995. She is also a member of Amnesty International and an honorary member of Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation. Presently, she is the Honorary Chairperson of Moratorium Campaign, a group who is gathering signatures for a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty. Sister Helen’s second book, “The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions,” was published in December 2004.


Sister Helen Prejean joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1957 and received a B.A. in English and education from St. Mary's Dominican College in New Orleans. In 1973, she earned an M.A. in religious education from St. Paul's University in Ottawa, Canada. She has been the religious education director at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in New Orleans, the formation director for her religious community, and has taught junior and senior high school students. The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Catherine Nerney, SSJ, Ph.D. at 215.248.7099 or e-mail