In the late 1970s, Mary Clarke, now called Mother Antonia,
left her life as a wealthy divorced mother of seven in Beverly
Hills to live and work in one of Mexico's most notorious
prisons, La Mesa State Penitentiary in Tijuana, historically one
of Latin America's most violent prisons. Through her work, she
became Mother Antonia. Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Mary
Jordan and Kevin Sullivan have written about her story in a book
called The Prison Angel: Mother Antonia's Journey From
Beverly Hills to a Life of Service in a Mexican Jail.
As an older, divorced woman, Mother Antonia 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. The church has
since blessed her mission. In the 1970s she moved to La Mesa to
give the rest of her life to serving the inmates at La Mesa.
When asked by guards and prisoners why she is there, she
answers, "For the love of God and for the love of you all!" She
began by tending to prisoners' immediate physical needs, but
quickly moved beyond this to tackle the root of the problem: the
Mexican justice system. She continues to this day to minister to prisoners, prison guards, and their families.
The Prison Angel : Mother Antonia's Journey from Beverly Hills to a Life of Service in a Mexican Jail
by Mary Jordan & Kevin Sullivan (Penguin Press HC, 2005)
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