Sister Antonia Brenner, the daughter of Irish immigrants who gave up a plush life in Beverly Hills to become a nun and serve prisoners in Mexico, has died at 86.
Brenner, who had been suffering from a weak heart and neuromuscular condition, died in the convent she founded in Mexico
Sister Brenner made headlines three decades ago when she made the decision to walk away from her beachfront home on the California coast and tend to prisoners in Tijuana, Mexico, after becoming a nun at age 50.
She was born Mary Clarke in 1926 to Irish immigrants. She married and divorced twice and had seven children.
She made her first trip to La Mesa State Penitentiary in 1965 to deliver medical supplies, reports Yahoo Shine.
"Something happened to me when I saw men behind bars," Brenner told the Los Angeles Times in a 1982 interview. "When I left, I thought a lot about the men. When it was cold, I wondered if the men were warm; when it was raining, if they had shelter. I wondered if they had medicine and how their families were doing. ... You know, when I returned to the prison to live, I felt as if I'd come home."
Brenner gave away her possessions and became a Roman Catholic nun in 1977. She moved into the Mexican prison, living in a concrete 10-by-10 room and sleeping on a cot.
"I'm the mother of seven children," she said in a 2002 interview. "I'm prepared for everything."
Brenner, who became known as the "prison angel," kept in touch with her family, making frequent trip back to Southern California.
"There isn't anyone who hasn't heard my lecture on victims," she told the Times. "They have to accept that they're wrong. They have to see the consequences. They have to feel the agony. ... But I do love them dearly."
Brenner eventually started her own religious community, the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour. She lived there until her death on October 17.
She is survived by seven children and 45 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore