SISTER HELEN PREJEAN TO SPEAK IN FRESNO ON MARCH 29
The internationally-recognized death penalty reform activist and author of the NY Times bestselling memoir Dead Man Walking will give a speech at the Newman Center in Fresno
Fresno, California – March 4, 2016
Fresno Grand Opera is excited to announce that Sister Helen Prejean, the noted author and death penalty reform activist famous for her advocacy for death row inmates, will make an appearance in Fresno on Tuesday, March 29 and give a speech at the Newman Center at 7:30 pm about her personal spiritual journey in providing council to condemned men. Noted for her passionate presentations and her comedic disposition, Sister Helen Prejean is in wide demand as a guest speaker and lecturer on the subject of capital punishment in the United States. Sister Helen will also spend part of the day in Fresno meeting with various community organizations.
Well recognized around the world, Sister Helen Prejean wrote the award-winning memoir Dead Man Walking based on her experiences providing spiritual council to death row inmates at Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana. Her memoir served as the basis for the feature film of the same title starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Susan Sarandon won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean. Her memoir also served as the basis for the opera Dead Man Walking, which will be performed by Fresno Grand Opera.
Tickets for Sister Helen Prejean’s speech can be purchased at the Fresno Grand Opera Box Office in person or by calling 559.442.5699, or may be purchased online at www.FresnoGrandOpera.org. Proceeds from this event will support Sister Helen’s organization and the presentation of the opera Dead Man Walking in May 2016.
About Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean was born on April 21, 1939, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in 1957 (now know as the Congregation of St. Joseph) and received a B.A. in English and Education from St. Mary’s Dominican College, New Orleans in 1962. In 1973, she earned an M.A. in Religious Education from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, Canada.
Sister 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, the convicted killer of two teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. Upon Sonnier’s request, Sister Helen repeatedly visited him as his spiritual advisor. Sister Helen turned her experiences into a book that not only made the 1994 American Library Associates Notable Book List. Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States was number one on the New York Times Best Seller List for 31 weeks. It also was an international best seller and has been translated into ten different languages.
In January 1996, the book was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen and Sean Penn as a death row inmate. Susan Sarandon won the award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean. The book was also the basis for a new opera by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrance McNally that premiere at San Francisco Opera in 2000.
Her broadcast appearances include 60 Minutes, NBC’s Today Show, ABC World News Tonight; the Tom Snyder Show on CNBC, Larry King Live (radio), the Phil Donahue Show, BBC World Service Radio, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and Fresh Air, an NBC Special on the Death Penalty, the Canadian Broadcast Company Man Alive, ABC’s Prime Times Live, and PBS’ Frontline.
Fifteen years after beginning her crusade, the Roman Catholic sister has witnessed five executions in Louisiana and today educates the public about the death penalty by lecturing, organizing and writing. As the founder of “Survive,” a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans, she continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but the families of murder victims as well. Sister Helen has served on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1985–1995, and has 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. She presently is the Honorary Chairperson of Moratorium Campaign, a group gathering signatures for a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty.