The following comes from an Oct. 17 story in UT San Diego.
Sister Antonia Brenner, a one-time Beverly Hills resident who found her calling ministering to the inmates of one of Mexico’s most violent and overcrowded prisons, has died.
The diminutive, twice-divorced mother of seven spent more than three decades at Tijuana’s notorious La Mesa Penitentiary, making her home in a 10-by-10 cell. She offered inmates everything from blankets to medicine to bail money. She led prayers and washed the dead for burial. They called her La Madre Antonia, or Mother Antonia. She said they were mis hijos, her children.
“She treated the inmates like they were her own sons and daughters,” said friend Merrel Olesen, a La Jolla plastic surgeon who donated his reconstructive surgical skills to the La Mesa prisoners for more than a decade and helped support Sister Antonia’s work for 30 years. “I would do the surgical procedure. My wife, Marie, would hand me the instruments. And when we were done, the prisoner would jump off the table and hug Mother Antonia.
“She had the ability to make everyone around her feel better. If there is ever a woman who deserves to be a saint, it’s this lady.”
Sister Antonia, who had a weak heart and myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disorder, died Thursday at the Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour convent in Tijuana. She was 86.
With her small frame, sunny disposition, and heavily accented Spanish, she delved fearlessly into a world riddled with poverty and violence, once quelling a riot by walking into the darkened penitentiary taken over by armed and angry inmates.
She urged guards to respect the petty thieves, rapists, murderers and drug traffickers in their custody, speaking out against beatings and torture of inmates. But she also reached out to those in law enforcement, raising funds for the families of those killed in the line of duty.
“I think prison freed me,” she once said in an interview.
The penitentiary she called home was marked by a prison village system with its own food stalls, drug dealers, and small apartments for prisoners with money, but brutal conditions for those who could not afford to pay for privileges. The facility came to symbolize the lawlessness and corruption that plagues many of Mexico’s prisons. Sister Antonia stayed on at the prison after the village, dubbed El Pueblito, was shut down.
Sister Antonia took her vows at 50, after her second marriage was over and her children were grown. Too old to join a religious order, she made a private pact with God, moving to the prison in March 1977….
To read the entire story, click here.
Mother Antonia lived our Catholic religion. Her reward will be in Heaven.
Please notice that Sister Antonio was faithful to the two great commandments. She loved God above all else, and she loved her neighbor as herself. The work she did was tremendous; not many would want to do what she did, even though they would get paid doing it.May God grant her eternal rest, and may she soon enter the kingdom of Heaven.
I agree Father Karl, what she did was tremendous and dangerous. She demonstrated a lot of love with her work. God bless her and may she rest in peace. I pray that we receive more blessings on earth with more good faithful souls who are willing to go the extra mile to bring Christ to lost souls. I’m sure there were people who called her awful names to discourage her from reaching out to those most in need, as always there is that cross.
God bless Sister Antonia….
Rodda where is your love???? God bless Father Karl for sharing his comments on this with true love and charity in Christ!
I have heard of this sister for a long time, never met her, and the work she did was amazing from what I heard of. Helping stop the riot was significant. Her work was badly needed, and she filled that need well, given the grace to answer God’s call to be there for the least of His children. I hope God has Mercy and gives her a place near to Him in her final rest.
This hemispheres Mother Teresa…a dear friend of mine met this saintly sister in Mexico…she helped transform her life…this was a “true” religious…
May the soul of Sister Antonia rest in peace, and if she is already in heaven may she pray for California and all of the Americas, North and South, we need prayers badly.
May she rest in peace and be rewarded in Heaven. What a woman! So she took vows at 50. A few years ago, after a bad crisis in my life, I thought maybe I had a vocation, (I was wrong) and I spoke to an order. They told me that I was too old because I was over 30! Given that we are all living longer and healthier, maybe if the orders raised the age limit we’d have more sisters. Just a thought.
Pray for Mother and wonderful to see her in a habit!!!
A lot in Mexico still do janek
Like many Catholics in the Southeast and Midwest, we made the long drive to Knoxville TN for their diocese’ Eucharistic Congress last month. One of things that really struck me was the large number of women religious in habits (and most of them looked to be under 30 years of age.)
Thats true k….many under the age of 30. They look lovely, God bless them!