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For whom the bell tolls

On October 17, 1993, the IHM Governing Board approved the following stance regarding the Death Penalty: “We, the IHM Congregation, oppose the death penalty.  The Gospel and Catholic social teaching compel us to do so.”  In January 2004, the IHM Justice Peace and Sustainability Office (JPSO) facilitated joining our endeavors to oppose the death penalty with the national initiative of “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”  Each month, a JPSO volunteer researches to prepare the monthly “For Whom the Bell Tolls” prayer scheduled for the last Wednesday of each month before the IHM Motherhouse liturgy.  The Lector rings the large handbell once for each person executed during that particular month.  The name of each person who was executed, the name of the victims and the specific state where the execution took place are read. The statement also includes prayer for the family of the one who was executed, the family of the victim and the state and prison employees who were asked to carry out the execution.   Our monthly “For Whom the Bell Tolls” reminds us to do our part to end state-sponsored violence.   If no execution takes place during the month, the prayer written by Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, is prayed for the abolition of the death penalty. 

The following individual was executed in the United States during the month of April 2024: 

April 4, Michael Dewayne Smith in Oklahoma

April 9, Brian Dorsey in Missouri 

Let us pause for a moment of silence…

For the one who was killed in an execution chamber in January 2024                      
For the victim whose life was taken away in violence.
For the family of the victim who continues to mourn.
For the family of the one who was executed, who also continue to mourn.
And for the state and prison employees who were asked to carry out this order of execution.

(Pause for 15 to 20 seconds of silence) 

May the ringing of this bell be a constant reminder that we are all diminished by continuing acts of state-sponsored violence in our country and in our world.

A Prayer for Justice

God of Compassion
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts
so that we may love as You love,
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death row and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduring love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice,
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more.