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  • Topic: Death Penalty, Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking
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Forgiving the Dead Man Walking
Year 10 Religious Education Assignment
If you want to see the brave, look at those who can forgive. If you want to see the heroic, look at those who can love in return for hatred. — Bhagavad Gita (Hindu Sacred Text) Introduction
Read the book ‘Forgiving the Dead Man Walking’ by Debbie Morris. It contains 17 chapters and can be divided into three broad sections:
1Chapters 1-6Perpetration of the crime.
2Chapters 7-12Debbie managing life on her own.
3Chapters 13-17Finding forgiveness and grace.
Send your responses by email to your teacher hclark@pymblelc.nsw.edu.au or jlyle@pymblelc.nsw.edu.au or submit in the appropriate folder in the RE folder in the Y drive NB - INCLUDE YOUR NAME and RE CLASS

In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun, started corresponding with a death-row inmate in Angola Prison in Louisiana. The experience changed the direction of her ministry and propelled her into activism against the death penalty. Dead Man Walking (1995 movie) presents a look at the life and work of this nun who demonstrates the spiritual practices of listening, forgiveness, and compassion with a prisoner on death row and with the parents of his victims. This film exposes the cruelty of death by lethal injection and offers instead an alternate path based on love. It also shows that hate is the worst prison of all. Question 1 – Read FDMW book Chapters 1-6.

What are your feelings about what happened to Debbie? (2 or 3 sentences 5m) Question 2 - How does Debbie’s story fit with what you have seen in the movie: “Dead Man Walking”? (2 or 3 sentences 5m)

The Spiritual Life
"The spiritual life," according to Joan Chittister, "is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity." Question 3 - What character qualities make Sister Helen Prejean such a helpful spiritual advisor? (2 or 3 sentences 5m) Think about the movie and discuss the different perception of the spiritual life held by Sister Helen and her co-workers and the Catholic prison priest; Chaplain Farley. Think about the question: What is your definition of the spiritual life? Follow the example of Jesus

In response to a question by the parents of the slain girl as to why she's ministering to Matthew Poncelet, in the movie Sister Helen says, "I'm just trying to follow the example of Jesus who said that every person is worth more than their worst act." Question 4 - How would you describe Sister Helen's vision of Jesus Christ and his importance in her life and ministry? (2 or 3 sentences 5m) Jesus was a model of the compassionate person. He was also an executed prisoner and a victim. Think about if any of these or other attributes -- of Jesus are most meaningful to you or your friends? Question 5 – Read FDMW Chapters 7-12. How does Debbie’s life and attitude change over this period of time? (3 paragraphs 10m). Hatred

In Real Love, Theodore Isaac Rubin writes, "Hate is chronic, deep, abiding hostility that goes on and on spilling over and polluting all aspects of life. It is corrosive to self. It blocks and destroys all other feelings, especially love. It contributes to bitterness and cynicism." Question 6 – Throughout the drama in the movie, Sister Helen is trying to find a way out of hate. What forces of hate in other people resist her efforts? (2-3 sentences 5m) In class, please talk about the death penalty. Many would argue that the death penalty is a vehicle of hate, bitterness, and cynicism. Discuss the question: Why do you think this form of legally mandated murder is so popular with the American public? Holy listening

The Quaker writer Douglas V. Steere has written, "Holy listening — to 'listen' another's soul into life, into a condition of disclosure and discovery, may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for...
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