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Written by Bro. Jerry Sullivan SM

Reflections on the Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty – Five Years Later

May 2014

I wrote an article in 2009 about my experience of the 16th Annual Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty in front of the Supreme Court in Washington DC. I wrote about how tough it was in the heat and glare of the sun. But I also wrote about the shared mission of folks, young and old, those who lost loved ones, the exonerated of crimes they didn’t commit, those with relatives in prison for murder. It was a healing experience because of the grace of forgiveness that was evident. There was a sense of community.

I followed that up with other vigils (not at the Supreme Court), and testifying in Maryland for the commission considering the repeal of Maryland’s Death Penalty. I’ve since joined the Marianist retirement community at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. Age and disability have limited my participation in vigils but I continue to be a member of the MSJC Death Penalty Team and do interventions through the internet.

I’ve reviewed the 10 things I learned from my 2009 experience and I have to say that I think they still apply for all of us:

I (we) can do it (work for abolition of the death penalty) even though it can be physically tough.
There are very dedicated folks, many my age, who care passionately about the injustices of the death penalty. And they carry this back to their communities.
It is possible to forgive the loss of a loved one to violence.
It is possible to move on with life after an experience of injustice and to work for justice for others.
There are many opportunities to get involved, to take responsibility for many of the injustices of our political system and to work for change rather than sitting on our butts and complaining.
It is important to learn the facts about the death penalty in order make an informed decision on where I stand.
Becoming involved in trying to change an injustice can be spiritually uplifting and life giving.
I am not alone, and it is possible to form friendships and community with like-minded folks.
The abolition of the death penalty is an intergenerational affair. There are young and old folks collaborating without the friction that age differences often bring.
It is important to be a part of something much bigger than oneself.

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