The Ignatian Solidarity Network will honor Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., with the “Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award” on Tuesday, May 7th, at an award reception in New Orleans, Louisiana. (NOTE: Please note the date change due to Sr. Helen’s speaking schedule.)
The Robert M. Holstein “Faith that Does Justice Award” honors one individual nationally each year who has demonstrated a significant commitment to leadership for social justice grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The award’s namesake, the late Robert (Bob) M. Holstein, was a former California Province Jesuit, labor lawyer, fierce advocate for social justice, and one of the founders of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) – the precursor to the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
Sister Helen began her prison ministry in 1981 when she dedicated her life to the poor of New Orleans. Since then she has been committed to educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths. In 1994, Sister Helen turned her experiences into a book entitled Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty, which held a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List for 31 weeks. Later the book was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen and Sean Penn as a death row inmate. The movie received four Oscar nominations including Tim Robbins for Best Director, Sean Penn for Best Actor, Susan Sarandon for Best Actress, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dead Man Walkin” for Best Song. Sr. Helen’s second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, was published in December 2004 and describes her accompanying two men to their executions. She continues her work as a passionate storyteller on speaking tours nationwide and is presently working on her next book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.
Sr. Prejean initially connected with the Ignatian Solidarity Network by speaking to thousands of young people at their annual event, the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in 2003. At that event she formally introduced the Dead Man Walking School Theater Project, and consequently Jesuit high schools were some of the first institutions in the U.S. to perform the play.
[gn_quote style="1"]“I saw the suffering and I let myself feel it… I saw the injustice and was compelled to do something about it. I changed from being a nun who only prayed for the suffering world to a woman with my sleeves rolled up, living my prayer.” [/gn_quote]
The previous “Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award” award winners are:
2009 – Rev. Charlie Currie, S.J., Former President, Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities
2010 – Rev. Steven Privett, S.J., President, University of San Francisco
2012 – Rev. Donald MacMillan, S.J., Campus Minister, Boston College
** No award was presented in 2011
The Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) promotes leadership and advocacy among students, alumni, and other emerging leaders from Jesuit schools, parishes, and ministries by educating its members on social justice issues; by mobilizing a national network to address those issues; and by encouraging a life-long commitment to the “service of faith and the promotion of justice.” ISN is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization. Additional information can be found at: www.ignatiansolidarity.net