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August 15, 2019 @ 7:30 pm

Sister Helen Prejean in conversation with Rev. Laurie Hafner


August 15, 2019
7:30 pm


Coral Gables Congregational Church
3010 De Soto Blvd.
Coral Gables, 33134 United States
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Books & Books is honored to present Sister Helen Prejean for her revelatory and intimate memoir, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey (Random House, $27) at the Coral Gables Congregational Church. Sister Helen will be in conversation with Rev. Dr. Laurinda Hafner with an introduction by Shed Boren. Tickets are $27 for (1) one copy of the book and admits (2) two guests to the presentation.  Please remember, seating is limited so make sure to arrive early. 

Sister Helen Prejean is one of the most recognized and respected voices of abolition of the death penalty in the world. For more than three decades, she has ministered to death row inmates and accompanied six persons to execution. She has founded organizations for abolition of the death penalty and for the protection and healing of victims’ families. Her seminal work, Dead Man Walking, spent over 30 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and became an Oscar-winning film, which introduced the expression ‘dead man walking’ into the vernacular, and the most popular modern Opera of the 21st Century.  Now, the nation’s foremost leader in this area of  human rights shares the story of her growth  into a spiritual leader and how she made her way from teaching in a Catholic, suburban school to becoming spiritual advisor to condemned murderers.  Still a devout Catholic, she speaks out about the challenges of her church and shows that joy and faith are mutually enhancing in RIVER OF FIRE: My Spiritual Journey.

In this revelatory, intimate memoir of her childhood, her spiritual evolution, and how she became “lit” to her crusade, Sister Helen chronicles her journey from one who prayed for God to solve the world’s problems to one engaged full-tilt, hands on, in the work to transform societal injustices. She writes about growing up in a well-off Baton Rouge family, one that still employed black servants in the racially segregated South, and how she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph at the age of eighteen. Life in the novitiate, which aimed at spiritual holiness, set strict boundaries of separation from the (sinful) “world” – but all that changed in the wake of Vatican II, which brought the winds of change in the Catholic Church. Inspired by Catholic activists such  as Dorothy Day in the inner city and Jesuit priests who went to prison for destroying draft files in opposition to the Vietnam war, Sister Helen started to immerse herself in the struggle of poor people in New Orleans forced to live on the margins of society.  RIVER OF FIRE is at turns honest and humorous, and she writes openly about her friendships with other women who have inspired and nurtured her, as well as a close friendship with a priest— obsessively intent on marrying her—and how  these relationships challenged her vocation in “new territory of the heart” and propelled her further into deepening both her life in the Sisterhood and her engagement in  social justice, where she is today.

RIVER OF FIRE is a story of faith and spirituality, doubt and belief, addressed to believers, agnostics, and “noms” alike.  It tells about  “catching on fire” to purpose and passion. Accessible, humorous, luminous and on point for these polarized times when awakened social conscience and citizen action  have never been more needed , Sister Helen shows us how to live a spiritual life that is wide awake to the sufferings and creative opportunities of our world. This book changed my life – and I hope it stirs something in you as well. I look forward to speaking more about the coverage opportunities when we publish this August. And the author, Sister Helen herself, a consummate Southern story teller, is eager to talk about this book, which took her seven years to write.  A prequel to Dead Man Walking, RIVER OF FIRE’s last page is the opening page of the book that gave a quantum nudge to the conscience of our nation and the world about the need to abolish government-sanctioned killing.


Tickets are $27 for (1) copy of the book and (2) two tickets to this presentation.

Seating will be first come, first served. Please arrive early.


About the Moderator…

The Rev. Dr. Laurinda M. Hafner’s passion for prophetic ministry, the social gospel and the arts has been the mark of her vibrant ministry. Called as Senior Pastor of Coral Gables Congregational UCC in 2006, Laurie came from Cleveland, Ohio where she served as senior pastor of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, for almost 18 years. Pastor Laurie, as she is known, is presently a board member of the Collective Empowerment Group of South Florida, an organization dedicated to building communities and developing assets in Miami-Dade County; has served as chair and co-chair of the Miami Coalition for Christians and Jews Clergy Dialogue, the oldest interfaith dialogue in the country; is a vice-president of P.A.C.T. (People Acting for Community Together), which seeks to promote fairness, justice and democracy in Miami-Dade County; and is probably best known as the pastor who goes up into the Church Tower each year and stays there until at least five tons of food is collected. Over the past years she has raised more than 70 tons of food for Feeding South Florida.




About the Introducer…

Shed Boren, PhD is a social worker and healthcare executive recognized for his advocacy for others. He has worked for, and on behalf of, vulnerable populations for more than 30 years, with a focus on those living with HIV/AIDS, chronic diseases, mental health challenges and in poverty. Dr. Boren has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Camillus Health Concern, Camillus House, Sister Emmanuel Hospital and as the founder of Mercy Hospital’s AIDS program.





About the Author…


  • Facebook: @SisterHelenPrejean
  • Twitter, Instagram: @helenprejean
  • Website: sisterhelen.org

Praise for River of Fire…

“Saint Ignatius of Loyola challenged us to ‘go forth and set the world on fire.’ Sister Helen has definitely done that! River of Fire is her story leading up to her acclaimed book Dead Man Walking—it is thought-provoking, informative, inspiring, and funny. Read it and it will set your heart ablaze!”—Mark Shriver, author of Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis

“Sister Prejean’s radical openness and bracing honesty about her own faith journey is as refreshing and compelling as it is demanding and questioning.  If you’ve ever wondered what ‘faith’ asks of you, you must read this book. It will turn your world upside down as you witness the conversion of a pious, sheltered nun into a fiery, faithful freedom fighter for the poor and the marginal. It set my own heart on fire, as I followed her quest to set the heart of the world aflame with passion for justice.”—Serene Jones, author of Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World

“Sister Helen Prejean is one of the great moral leaders of our time. With her landmark book, Dead Man Walking, she turned the world’s attention to the injustices of the death penalty and, in the process, helped to change Catholic teaching on the topic. Her superb new memoir, River of Fire, is the inviting and inspiring story of her early days as a Catholic sister. A born storyteller, Sister Helen leads you, with her fierce intelligence and lively wit, from her entrance into a novitiate that still practiced the traditional ways of spiritual formation, to the volcanic changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council, to her first exciting days as a junior-high school teacher, to the initial stirrings of understanding what ‘social justice’ meant in action. River of Fire is a book to read and treasure, and Sister Helen’s is a life to celebrate and honor.”—James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

“Prejean chronicles the compelling, sometimes-difficult journey to the heart of her soul and faith with wit, honesty, and intelligence. A refreshingly intimate memoir of a life in faith.”Kirkus Reviews