Sister Antonia Brenner
Smiling Angel of Mercy
Every day, Sister Antonia Brenner touches the life, mind and heart of someone in desperate need. Every day she impacts the future of another human being. Every day she saves lives and souls.
Sister Antonia lives in a prison cell in Tiajuana, Mexico. She is a Missionary Nun who has made a penitentiary her "home". In 1986, while working with a charity in Mexico, Aid for Baja, California, Sister Antonia entered prison for the first time. She was so profoundly affected that she was compelled to return, permanently and voluntarily.
She begins each day with the prison roll call that is not complete until her name has been called. Hers is not a 9 to 5 job; she is on call 24 hours a day. She has full run of the prison and walks about unescorted, serving the over 2500 residents' spiritual and practical needs. If a prisoner needs a blanket or medical attention for a toothache or needs words of praise and encouragement for a personal accomplishment, or craves a smiling hug, Sister Antonia makes sure that they get what they need.
Many things that seem inconsequential to most, are miracles for the inmates, thanks to Sister Antonia. She intervenes on the prisoners' behalf with the system. She visits their families, children and sick relatives; bringing them news from the outside. Sister is the "Mama figure" to all the male and female residents of the prison, helping them to see a future beyond the prison walls.
Sister Antonia has successfully started a hospice program for inmates who are terminally ill. She says, "People say to me that prisoners should lose their rights--that is the price they must pay for their crimes". Sister's answer, "I say, lose their freedom, yes. But deny the positive power of love within a prison, and you end up with only violent, vengeful energy". She believes this evil energy can be rechanneled in a positive direction with people returning to society.
She makes rehabilitation a reality, restoring self respect. Sister Antonia Brenner asks for nothing, yet gives everything to make a difference in the lives of people most would rather forget.
Women's International Center proudly honors Sister Antonia's devotion to humanity with the deeply deserved Living Legacy Award.