Sister Helen Prejean Talks Social Justice with CBA Student Body

As part of Catholic Schools Week and the Academy Oath Book Program, Christian Brothers Academy had the distinct honor of hosting Sister Helen Prejean, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, for a school-wide assembly this morning.

Appropriately dubbed the “Vocations Day” of the Catholic Schools Week, Sister Helen spoke with the CBA student body on the topic of social justice, something she has spent much of her career focusing on.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana native rose to national prominence following her 1993 book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, which was later made into an Academy Award-winning film.

Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths. Sister Helen has been instrumental in sparking a national dialogue on the death penalty and in helping shape the Catholic Church’s opposition to state executions. Sister Helen’s second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, was published in 2004. She is presently at work on another book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

After speaking about her career and why she developed this great passion for social justice, she opened the floor up for questions. Academy men were able to ask Sister Helen a wide-range of questions, ranging from her relationships with remorseful individuals to how she personally deals with the horrors that she sees in much of her work.

“The silence I heard today from these students, followed-up by intelligent questions, that’s how you can tell that they were really listening,” Sister Helen said after her talk. “I call that ’tilled soil,’ which means this school is doing a great job. You do not have that kind of attentiveness when 950 young men sit in one room unless CBA’s faculty and staff are teaching them great things. It was a real joy to listen to their questions and to meet many of these polite young men.”

After Sister Helen finished speaking, she signed copies of her books for students, parents, faculty and alumni.

Sister Helen joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in 1957, now know as the Congregation of St. Joseph. She has deep roots in education as well, having 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.

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About Christian Brothers Academy:

Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) is a private, Catholic, academic preparatory school for boys located in Lincroft, New Jersey. Founded in 1959 and taught in the Lasallian tradition, CBA is dedicated to helping students become intellectually mature and morally responsible leaders for society. Through the combined efforts of the Office of Advancement and friends of the Academy, CBA awards over $1.5 million in scholarships and financial aid to current students. Experience the Academy at