Mother Antonia

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Mother Antonia Brenner
Madre Antonia
Religion Roman Catholic
Order Servants of the Eleventh Hour
Other names La mama, The Prison Angel
Nationality American
Born Mary Clarke
(1926-12-01)December 1, 1926
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died October 17, 2013(2013-10-17) (aged 86)
Tijuana, Mexico
Religious career
Post La Mesa Prison, Tijuana, Mexico

Mother Antonia Brenner (Spanish: Madre Antonia; December 1, 1926 – October 17, 2013), was an American Roman Catholic nun and activist who chose to reside and care for inmates at the notorious maximum-security La Mesa Prison in Tijuana, Mexico.[1]


Mother Antonia was born Mary Clarke on December 1, 1926, to Joseph Clarke and Kathleen Mary Clarke. She was married and divorced twice, and had seven children, living in Beverly Hills, California.[1] She has said that in 1969 she had a dream that she was a prisoner at Calvary and about to be executed, when Jesus appeared to her and offered to take her place. She refused his offer, touched him on the cheek, and told him she would never leave him, no matter what happens to her. At some point in the 1970s, she chose to devote her life to the Church, in part because of this dream.[1] As an older, divorced woman, Clarke was banned by church rules from joining any religious order, so she went about her work on her own. She founded an order for those in her situation: the Servants of the Eleventh Hour.[2] The Church has since blessed her mission and, on September 25, 2009, she received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award, presented at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego.[2]

In addition to her normal work involving the prisoners, she negotiated an end to a riot.[1][3] She also persuaded the jail administrators to discontinue prisoner incarceration in substandard cells known as the tumbas (tomb)s.[1]

The road outside the jail, known until recently as "Los Pollos" ("The Chickens"), was renamed in November 2007 to "Madre Antonia" in her honor.[1]

She is profiled in the book The Prison Angel, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan.

In 2010, Estudio Frontera released a DVD documentary on Mother Antonia's life, La Mama: An American Nun's Life in a Mexican Prison. Produced and written by Jody Hammond, photographed and edited by Ronn Kilby, and narrated by Susan Sarandon, the film took five years to make.[4]

Mother Antonia died on October 17, 2013 at the age of 86 at her Tijuana home. She had recently been in declining health.[5][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Faith Inside the Walls Documentary at the Wayback Machine (archived June 12, 2008) The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC Part 3 20 November 2007 via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ a b 'Mother Antonia,' from Beverly Hills to Prison Aid
  3. ^ ABC News: Excerpts from The Prison Angel
  4. ^ "La Mama: An American Nun's Life in a Mexican Prison". Retrieved 2013-10-19. 
  5. ^ Jill Replogle (October 17, 2013). "American Nun Who Lived in Tijuana Prison For 30 Years Dies". KPBS. 
  6. ^ Marosi, Richard (2013-10-17). "Sister Antonia Brenner dies at 86; nun moved into Tijuana prison to tend to inmates". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-10-19. 


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