The motion picture Dead Man Walking provided a non-fiction insight into the
world of crime, justice, and capital punishment. The film cast several characters from
different backgrounds and opinion sets in direct conflict with one another. Several small
topics and one major topic, capital punishment, were explored over the duration of the
movie. While the opinions and reactions of people to Dead Man Walking may vary, the
one constant is that people will have a reaction.
Sister Helen Preje, the Catholic nun, appeared to be a genuinely concerned person
who took a real interest in the condemned prisoner. She came from a strong background
but chose to 'give back' to others. Sister Helen explained her need to 'give back' during
the film and appeared to be completely serious about her commitment to helping others.
Sister Helen did not wear her habit during the course of the film. Many people have a
stereotypical vision of Catholic nuns: the habit, seemingly out-of-touch thoughts and
ideals, and older and/or without any vitality.
Sister Helen showed what being a Catholic
and a Catholic nun is truly about. She accepted a call for help from a complete stranger.
Instead of turning away or giving up, she persisted, showing what love and, in a way,
courage could do under such dire circumstances. Through it all, she did it with spirit, life,
vitality, and strength. Her relationship with the convict, Matthew Poncelet, was on two
levels. The first was as a friend and confidant. Sister Helen was the first to truly explore
Matthew for Matthew. Others tried to learn about him, but only to vilify or condemn him.
The second level was as a messenger of religion, a messenger of God. For the very first
time, Matthew was given the opportunity to realize his worth...