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Blessed Sacrament presents fifth Church on Fire lecture: ‘River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey’

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The Parish Pastoral Council of Blessed Sacrament Church in Buffalo is pleased to announce that Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, will give a virtual presentation on her 2019 memoir, “River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey,” on Tuesday, May 24, at 7 p.m. The presentation will occur in the Canisius High School Auditorium, 1180 Delaware Ave. This is the fifth lecture in the Catherine M. and Paul W. Beltz Lecture Series of the Church on Fire: Stay With Us! program.

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ

Sister Helen is known around the world for her tireless work against the death penalty. She has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on capital punishment and in shaping the Catholic Church’s vigorous opposition to all executions. In her virtual presentation on “River of Fire,” Sister Helen will talk about her childhood, convent and early ministry experiences where she worked with the African-American poor who helped her understand the concepts of white privilege and institutional racism. She’ll talk about how she went from being apolitical to becoming a political activist.

Tickets go on sale on April 6, and can be purchased by going online to www.BSCBuffalo.org/events or by purchasing tickets at weekend Masses at Blessed Sacrament Church, 1029 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. Tickets are priced at $20 for adults; $10 for students and seniors. For further questions, contact Michael Pitek at Michael@thepitekgroup.com or 716-480-8313.

Free off-street parking is available on the grounds of Canisius High.

Sister Helen became a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille (now part of the Congregation of St. Joseph) in 1957. She began her career as a religious education teacher but soon felt called to serve the poor and the disenfranchised. A request to become a pen pal to Elmo Patrick Sonnier, a Louisiana death row inmate, in 1981, marked the beginning of her death row ministry and her campaign against the death penalty.

Her first book, “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States” (1994), narrated her experiences as a spiritual adviser to two condemned men, Sonnier and Robert Willie, both of whom she accompanied to the death chamber. The book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and became a number one New York Times best seller. Sister Helen’s book was adapted into a feature-length film in 1994, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

Sister Helen works with people of all faiths and those who follow no established faith, but her voice has had a special resonance with her fellow Catholics. Over the decades, Sister Helen has made personal approaches to two popes, John Paul II and Pope Francis, urging them to establish the Catholic Church’s position as unequivocally opposed to capital punishment under any circumstances. After Sister Helen’s urging, under John Paul II the catechism was revised to strengthen the Church’s opposition to executions, although it allowed for a very few exceptions. Not long after meeting with Sister Helen in August 2018, Pope Francis announced new language of the Catholic Catechism which declares that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, with no exceptions.

The 2021-2022 Church on Fire series features an expanded format of lectures, concerts, events and services that will provide ten months of programming, appealing to a variety of ages, genders, ethnicities, and spiritualities. The parish is opening its doors to all: long-time parishioners, new parishioners, curious non-parishioners, and community friends and neighbors.

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