That’s what Sister Helen asked.
Susan and I were watching a documentary called “Sister.”
SISTER is a one-hour documentary highlighting the work of death penalty abolitionist Sister Helen Prejean. The film examines the life and influences of Sister Helen and delves into the evolving role of Catholic nuns in America. This poignant piece follows Sister Helen (best selling author of Dead Man Walking) as she counsels and fights for the stay of execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip.
Sister Helen Prejean grew up in the Jim Crow South, joined the Sisters of St. Joseph at the age of 17, and emerged to become the leading voice against the death penalty in the USA.
Sister Helen’s awareness of social justice came even later, when she attended a talk by an activist nun who noted that Jesus’ message about the poor is that they be poor no longer. That their fate was not God’s will, and that just praying for people was not enough. Social justice, the nun said, meant being involved in political processes, because doing nothing was tacit support for the status quo.
What stung the most, Sister Helen said, “was the realization of how passive I had been.” A year later, she moved into Hope House, a Catholic service ministry in a New Orleans housing project. She was 42 years old. And a year after that, she would begin writing to a death row inmate.
“There’s this thing of how you discern God’s will in your life,” Sister Helen said.
Sister Helen’s latest memoir “River Of Fire” came out in paperback in 2019.
“When you accompany someone to the execution, as I have done three times as a spiritual advisor, everything becomes very crystallized, distilled, and stripped to the essentials. You are in this building in the middle of the night, and all these people are organized to kill this man. And the gospel comes to you as it never has before: Are you for compassion, or are you for violence? Are you for mercy, or are you for vengeance? Are you for love, or are you for hate? Are you for life, or are you for death?“
All of this got me thinking about purpose–my life’s purpose.
I do believe I am making the world a better place with beautiful photography.
But after watching this documentary I wondered what else am I doing to be more like Jesus?
There is my volunteer work with 3rd and 4th graders. Unfortunately this came to and end with the beginning of the quarantine one year ago. Note the date on the above school photo. March 4. One year ago today. You can read about the impact Susan and I had on these children here: https://brucebarone.com/2017/09/26/what-a-wonderful-world/
We pray we can continue with this work again someday soon.
Beauty. Children. Community. Working to make the world a better place.