Defenders of the Innocent Second Annual Awards Reception: Dominican Sisters

Dominican Sisters of Springfield Tribute

On May 18, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield received the Defenders of the Innocent Award from the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project.

Below you can read some of the tributes to these wonderful women who work so tirelessly for justice, including justice for the innocence.

Larry Golden’s Introduction of The Dominican Sisters of Springfield
Recipients of the Defenders of the Innocent Award, May 18, 2009

Sister Rose Marie Riley with Larry Golden

I began working with the Dominicans on the thorny issue of the location of scattered site housing back in the mid-1990’s. My respect quickly grew for them as they helped lead this community through a very divisive racial issue laden with class and racial conflict.

A couple of years later, they joined with the university and the community in working on the Springfield Project to assist residents living on the east side of Springfield to gain greater control over their lives and their community and to improve the neighborhoods that they lived in.

The Sisters’ Support for the Innocence Project

Not long after, they agreed to assist in the formation of the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project. Their opposition to the death penalty and their compassion for those who are wrongfully convicted led them to take an active role, particularly as we worked on our attempt to exonerate Julie Rea Harper of Lawrenceville, Illinois.

Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IllinoisThe Sisters Accepting their Award

The Dominican Sisters have quietly fought for social justice in Springfield and throughout the world. They have sisters in Peru. They have sisters in Iraq. They have fought for a better life in those countries and other areas of the world.

A Personal Note

Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois

I’ll end this tribute on another personal note. My youngest daughter has had the possibility of going to work for an organization called TransFair USA in Oakland, California. TransFair is an organization that certifies products for fair trade. It is concerned with the working conditions and just compensation of the workers who produce the items.

A couple of years ago, my daughter called me one night and asked, “Do you think the Dominican Sisters of Springfield who are listed as supporters of TransFair is the same group you work with?”

Knowing their commitment to social justice, without even checking, I quickly assured my daughter that they were surely the same group. This is a group that does not shy away from controversy if it benefits people throughout the world in accord with their principles. It is just an incredibly great honor for me to present the 2009 Defenders of the Innocent Organizational Award to the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.