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Loyola University New Orleans Hosts Sister Helen Prejean

Loyola press release - November 9, 2015

Renowned anti-death penalty expert will give community talk at Holy Name of Jesus Church, spotlighting social justice work, 40th anniversary of LUCAP

Renowned anti-death penalty expert and community activist Sister Helen Prejean (H '05) visits Loyola University New Orleans this month to spotlight social justice issues and commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Loyola Community Action Program.

Prejean will deliver a talk, “Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues,” at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 16 in Holy Name of Jesus Church at Loyola, 6363 St. Charles Ave. The event is free and open to the public. Prejean, a Louisiana native and member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, will share her continued work with death row inmates and their victims and highlight perceived problems of our justice system, particularly the death penalty. Prejean is a regular and welcome visitor at Loyola New Orleans, where she was awarded an honorary doctorate in May 2005.

The talk helps to kick off a year-long celebration of LUCAP at Loyola and is sponsored by the advocacy organization together with Loyola’s Office of Mission and Ministry, University Ministry and University Chaplain. Started in 1975, LUCAP is a student-initiated, student-led volunteer service and advocacy organization open to all Loyola students, offering them opportunities for direct service; reflection on larger, related social justice issues; and advocacy and organizing through projects in areas such as: rebuilding, hunger and homelessness, tutoring and mentoring, and environmentalism.

“As the Catholic Church enters its Year of Mercy beginning in Advent, the United States enters an election year in 2016 and Pope Francis continues to call for global abolition of the death penalt, Sr. Helen challenges us to talk about life, death and social justice,” said Kurt Bindewald, director of the Office of Mission and Ministry at Loyola. “We are honored to have Sr. Helen Prejean as our guest, as we celebrate 40 years of social justice work performed by Loyola students in the community through the Loyola Community Action Program.”

Prejean’s work was documented in her book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was made into a major motion film and an opera. One of the best known voices for the abolition of the death penalty in the U.S., Prejean also heads a national nonprofit organization, The Ministry Against the Death Penalty.

“MADP believes the death penalty causes harm to all those affected by it, including victims’ families and prison officers, as well as the condemned and their families,” Prejean states on the organization’s website. “We are committed to promoting compassionate alternatives to the death penalty, including restorative justice and funding for victims’ families. We believe in the dignity and rights of all persons and recognize that government-sanctioned killing is a violation of those rights.”

Social justice is a key underpinning of a liberal arts Jesuit education at Loyola, where for more than 40 years, LUCAP has provided volunteer service and addressed social justice issues in the Greater New Orleans area.

Ongoing projects include work with area nonprofits including Caring Across Cultures; Cafe con Ingles; Habitat for Humanity; Ozanam Inn; Hunger Relief; People for Animal Welfare and Service (PAWS); Student Advocates on Mental Illness (SAMI); Best Buddies and the Uptown Shepherd Center.

On campus, LUCAP also helps to support:

  • Students Against Hyper-Incarceration, an advocacy project focused on addressing the mass incarceration of African-American men in the United States, and ending the 'school-to-prison pipeline' that perpetuates this unjust practice;
  • Loyola Immigration Advocacy, which works toward comprehensive immigration reform;
  • Green Light, which aims to build gardens in local New Orleans residents’ backyards and help residents to harvest their own produce, and
  • Students Seeking Solidarity, a group committed to working for international peace through justice.