Keynote speakers


 Sister Helen Prejean.jpg 

Sister Helen Prejean

River of Fire – Waking up to Justice

Sr. Helen was not born an activist. She was born into a middle-class, Catholic family in the Jim Crow South. How did that young girl make her way to the segregated Projects of New Orleans to work with African American communities and those who are marginalized? Hers is a story of compassionate leadership that strikes at the heart of welcoming the stranger – especially in our current times. 


Sister Helen Prejean is known around the world for her tireless work against the death penalty. She has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on capital punishment and in shaping the Catholic Church’s vigorous opposition to all executions. 

Born on April 21, 1939, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1957. She worked as a high school teacher and served as the Religious Education Director at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in New Orleans before moving into the St. Thomas Housing Project in the early ‘80s. 

In 1982, Sister Helen began corresponding with Patrick Sonnier, who had been sentenced to death for the murder of two teenagers. Two years later, when Patrick Sonnier was put to death in the electric chair, Sister Helen was there to witness his execution. In the following months, she became spiritual advisor to another death row inmate, Robert Lee Willie, who was to meet the same fate as Sonnier. After witnessing these executions, Sister Helen realized that this lethal ritual would remain unchallenged unless its secrecy was stripped away, and so she sat down and wrote a book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. That book ignited a national debate on capital punishment and spawned an Academy Award winning movie, a play and an opera. Sister Helen’s second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, was published in 2004; and her third book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey, in August 2019.

 Beth Veale.jpg

Beth Veale

"The Least of These":  Welcoming the Stranger Within Us

Many of us are familiar with Come from Away– the story of a tiny community of Newfoundlanders, who welcomed and cared for 7,000 unexpected guests on September 11, 2001. As educational leaders, our vocation compels us to welcome and address the needs of the “strangers" who come into our care; Christ called us to embrace “the least of these”, those who hold the smallest amount of power among us. We will explore together the hungry stranger who exists within each one of us, the part of us that may feel powerless, or starving for hope and a future. As we think about self-care as a ministry to our inner stranger, may we recognize the power that is rooted in compassion for others and ourselves.


Dr. Beth Veale is an engaging and dynamic presenter, who enjoys sharing her passion for inspirational leadership with educators. Beth began her teaching career in Scarborough, Ontario, where she developed expertise in teaching middle school learners, special education and guidance. As a Vice-Principal, Principal and Superintendent, Beth positively impacted students, staff and colleagues with her characteristic warmth, humour and thoughtful approach to challenges.

Beth earned her PhD in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where her studies focused on the experiences of adolescents who were struggling at school. Beth served as a course instructor at Tyndale University College in Toronto, where she taught a variety of courses in Psychology and Youth Ministries. She was involved in the development of an accredited Bachelor of Education program at Tyndale and continues to serve on their Advisory Board.Beth continues to inspire educational leaders in personal and professional development through her company, Breathe Leadership.