News and Events
Chapel Series Hosts Sister Helen Prejean, Author of Dead Man Walking
Image Credit: Grant-Guerrero
This spring’s chapel line-up brought renowned author and speaker Sister Helen Prejean to Pepperdine’s Malibu campus on March 17. Prejean spoke to students about the personal experiences that inspired her book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States.
Prejean’s book documents the road to execution for two men facing the death penalty having been found guilty of murder. After starting out as pen pals, she visited with both men right up until their executions. Dead Man Walking also shares her involvement with the families of the victims and gave a unique perspective to the grieving process.
"I thought her story was really interesting and appreciated how she explained that God is working in the lives of the families of both the killers and victims," says senior Kimberly Robison.
Director of convocation, Sarah Auda-Jaggard adds, "Sister Helen was able to help students think about the issue from all different sides including the victims family, the inmate and the executioner… She used her personal story to express her passion for the subject."
Prejean’s background in prison ministry began in 1981 after becoming pen pals with a convicted killer awaiting execution in the Louisiana Angola State Prison. Her insight into the death penalty and experience witnessing five executions propelled her to educate the public about the decisions of the judicial system from multiple perspectives. The book struck a chord with an international audience, having been translated into 10 different languages. It also sat on the top of the New York Times bestseller list for 31 weeks, and was adapted into a successful film of the same name starring Susan Sarandon, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Prejean.
A native of Louisiana, Prejean earned an M.A. in religious education from St. Paul's University in Ottawa, Canada. Sister Helen has served on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1985 to 1995, and has served as chairperson of the board from 1993 to 1995. She is also a member of Amnesty International and an honorary member of Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation, as well as the founder of Survive, an organization devoted to providing counseling to the families of victims of violence.
Wednesday morning Chapel is part of the Pepperdine Convocation Series for undergraduate students, with activities aimed at building Christian faith, affirming Christian values, or addressing ethical and moral issues posed by current events.
For more information about the Chapel series at Pepperdine, visit the Seaver College Spiritual Activities Web site.