Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Created in God’s image, humans have inherent dignity and worth. This belief of the Catholic Church lays the foundation for all other teachings. The Sisters of St. Agnes and their Associates honor the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death. During the Cold War the Sisters supported human life by opposing the use of nuclear weapons; they declared their property to be a nuclear free zone. After 9-11 the Sisters formulated a public stance on peace and nonviolence as a guide for personal and communal actions. In the last decade they adopted corporate stances against the death penalty (2006) and human trafficking (2007). These actions demonstrate the Sisters’ reverence for life and their commitment to a consistent ethic of life.
In November 2022, the CSA joined “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” a national initiative that invites people of faith to publicly express opposition to executions and pray for all of those impacted in the aftermath of murder. Ideally, communities solemnly toll their bells for two minutes on the day of an execution in the U.S. As our buildings do not have bells, we’ve chosen other ways to voice our opposition and support those impacted.
On the day of an execution, a candle is lit and the name of the executed is displayed and mentioned in the liturgy at both the Motherhouse and Nazareth Court and Center residential center. A black and white yard sign is also placed at these locations the week of a scheduled execution to indicate, “We Oppose the Execution this Week.” Prayers for those to be executed and their victims are also posted on social media.
Members of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Committee write letters to inmates to be executed every month. It is a beautiful ministry as many receive written responses back.
May we find it in our hearts and minds to also pray for, and communicate with, the courts and judges who have jurisdiction over sentencing and for the state and national leaders who have the authority to abolish these barbaric laws.
Let us pause for a moment of silence…
For those who were killed in execution chambers this past month,
For their victims whose lives were taken away in violence,
For the families of the victims who continue to mourn,
For the families of the executed, who also continue to mourn
And for the state and prison employees who were asked to carry out these orders of execution.
May the ringing of bells across our country, and our signs of opposition, be a constant reminder that we are all diminished by continuing acts of state-sponsored violence in our country and in our world. The “For Whom the Bell Tolls” campaign will continue until the death penalty is abolished in the U.S.
Join in Prayer
At 1 p.m. Central Time on the First Friday of each month, Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) holds a Virtual Prayer Vigil to lament upcoming executions and bear witness to the inviolable dignity of all human life.
Additional details and registration information are available on CMN's website.
You can also sign up to receive monthly alerts about upcoming executions which include resources for prayer and advocacy. Sign up here.
Death Penalty Resources
(Links will open in new windows)
Facts About the Death Penalty (source: Death Penalty Information Center)
World Day Against the Death Penalty includes steps you can take to help abolish the death penalty throughout the world.
States With and Without the Death Penalty (source: Death Penalty Information Center)
Catholic Social Teaching and The Death Penalty (source: Catholic Mobilizing Network)
Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty is an Alabama death row prisoner founded and run organization, established in 1989. Their site provides resources regarding the death penalty throughout the country and their current work to establish a moratorium on the death penalty in Alabama.
The memoir "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson tells his story as a lawyer struggling for justice in an unjust system.
Read the full New York Times Book Review.
Sisters and Associates may borrow a copy of the book from the JPIC library at the motherhouse.
In a video message sent to an international anti-death penalty group on Wednesday, February 27, 2019, Pope Francis encouraged them in their work and deliberations. The video below shows the message in its original Spanish; English translation and commentary was made available by the Catholic News Agency.
Resources for those looking to write to prisoners on death row:
320 County Road K
Phone: (920) 907-2315
Fax: (920) 921-8177
Based on individual Department of Corrections state websites, the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Ministry produces a list of names and addresses of inmates to be executed every month. Members of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee (JPIC) write them a letter and pray for them, their victims and their families. On the day of their execution, a candle is lit and their name is mentioned in the liturgy.
If you are writing letters as well, please note that the address for Missouri inmates was updated in May of 2023.