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Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., recipient of the 1999 U.S. Catholic Award.


"If you look at the presence in the church, the life of the church, the work of the church--it's 85 percent women. They make the church alive. Take the women out, and you don't have a church. But it is growing, stretching; it's in something of a creative tension, and I just have a full confidence that the church is going to grow. The role of women is really beginning to flower. There's no stopping it, and so it's going to have an effect on the structures of the church."

"Women have always been the hands of the church. Religious women especially have always been in the trenches with people. We move where the most hurting and suffering is going on. Death row inmates are just part of that picture, so it's not surprising that I'm there or that other women are there saying we shouldn't execute people because life is redeemable. It's only one more manifestation of what women do all of the time."

"We have to work out of hope, but we also have to help the change come. I see people all over the country who say they don't find enough nurturing, dignity, or respect in the church today, and I can't blame them for that. But my own approach is that when you love--and in any family you love--you don't leave, but rather work on change. You confront, you challenge, you debate, but you don't leave."

Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J. is the acclaimed author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. She has devoted her life to educating the public about the death penalty by lecturing, organizing, and writing. She has accompanied five men to execution and witnessed their deaths. She also ministers to murder victims' families.

Prejean is currently at work on a spiritual autobiography on women's struggle in the Catholic Church, human rights, and the death penalty called Hand on the Tiller, Face in the Wind -- Travel Notes of a Believer (to be released in 2000). As a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, Prejean has not only brought considerable public attention to capital punishment, but has also blazed new trails for women religious and lay women.

Currently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Prejean has received numerous awards and honorary degrees for her work. U.S. CATHOLIC presented the award to Prejean at a reception in Chicago in May.
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Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Jun 1, 1999
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