4/17/2012 10:11:00 AM Oregonians join death penalty protest
Hotchkiss family photo
Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss, Peggy Santos and Manny Hotchkiss stand at death penalty demonstration during the LA Religious Education Congress.
The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress is attended by Catholics from around the world — including some of the faith formation staff from St. Pius X Parish in Portland.
For a week each spring, the Anaheim Convention Center is filled with as many as 40,000 enthusiastic Catholics. Hundreds of booths from religious organizations, publishers, artists, and vendors fill the exhibit hall.
Those who make the trip attend inspiring liturgies and learn from Catholic educators, including St. Joseph Sister Helen Prejean, a writer and activist who opposes the death penalty.
For Mary and Manny Hotchkiss of St. Pius X, the most memorable site was the Catholic Mobilizing Network booth, giving information about the death penalty. The booth staff commended Oregon's governor John Kitzhaber for refusing to carry out executions during his time as governor. Like Oregon, California still has the death penalty. But an effort is underway to put it on the ballot and outlaw it.
The Hotchkisses met with lay Maryknoll affiliates from Southern California during the Congress. Paula Schaffner, an affiliate from Arroyo Grande, Calif., reflected on Sister Prejean's talk at the Congress: “She put a human face on those on death row. But she also talked about how hard the average 20 years a convict spends on death row is on the families of the victims.”
A lunch-time demonstration against the death penalty was held in front of the Convention Center, organized by more than 10 faith-based organizations including Pax Christi, the Catholic Peace Movement, the The California Province of the Society of Jesus, JustFaith and the Diocese of Orange County.
Several hundred activists gathered around the speakers, including Sister Prejean, who urged listeners to remember that Jesus was a victim of the death penalty. Other speakers and the Catholic Mobilizing Network explained why they oppose the death penalty, urging Catholics to join in prayerful witness against executions. Speakers characterized the stance against executions as pro-life.
Actors performed an excerpt from the play "Dead Man Walking," based on Sister Prejean's book. In Portland, both Central Catholic and Jesuit high schools have performed the play.
A bumper sticker at the Catholic Mobilizing Network booth asked, ”Who would Jesus execute?”