Antonia Brenner

Antonia Brenner, better known as Mother Antonia (Spanish: Madre Antonia), (December 1, 1926 – October 17, 2013) was an American Catholic religious sister and activist who chose to reside and care for inmates at the notorious maximum-security La Mesa Prison in Tijuana, Mexico.[1] As a result of her work, she founded a new religious institute called the Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour.

Mother Antonia Brenner
Madre Antonia
Mary Clarke

(1926-12-01)December 1, 1926
Los Angeles, California,
United States
DiedOctober 17, 2013(2013-10-17) (aged 86)
ReligionRoman Catholic
Other namesLa mama, The Prison Angel
OrderEudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour
Senior posting
PostLa Mesa Prison, Tijuana, Mexico


Brenner 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 Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour.[2] In 1983, Brenner received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[3][4][5] In 2003 her religious community was formally approved by Rafael Romo Munoz, Bishop of the Diocese of Tijuana.[6] 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][7] She also persuaded the jail administrators to discontinue prisoner incarceration in substandard cells known as the tumbas (tombs).[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.[8]

After a period of declining health, Brenner died on October 17, 2013, aged 86, at her Tijuana home.[9][10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Faith Inside the Walls Documentary". Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2007-11-20.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) 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. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  4. ^ Wade, Larry (July 14, 1983). "American Academy of Achievement fills Coronado with famous names" (PDF). Coronado Journal. Coronado Journal.
  5. ^ "Our History Photo: Academy guests of honor: Legends of Sport: Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys head coach and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, presents the American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award to Mother Antonia Brenner, the "Prison Angel," at the 1983 Summit in San Diego". American Academy of Achievement.
  6. ^ "The Community". Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour. Archived from the original on 2015-08-10.
  7. ^ ABC News: Excerpts from The Prison Angel
  8. ^ "La Mama: An American Nun's Life in a Mexican Prison". Retrieved 2013-10-19.
  9. ^ Jill Replogle (October 17, 2013). "American Nun Who Lived in Tijuana Prison For 30 Years Dies". KPBS.
  10. ^ 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.


External linksEdit