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How An American Nun Became A Lifeline Of Hope For Prisoners In Tijuana

Jody Hammond, the filmmaker of "La Mama: An American Nun’s Life In A Mexican Prison," talks to KPBS about Mother Antonia, who became a nun at age 50 and has called Tijuana's most notorious prison, La Mesa Penitentiary, home since 1978.

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Mother Antonia became a nun at age 50 and has called Tijuana's most notorious prison, La Mesa Penitentiary, home since 1978.

In the early history of Christianity there were many stories of dramatic conversions. People who lived privileged lives, worldly lives - were inspired to transform themselves into servants of the Lord. A modern day version of that story has been taking place in Tijuana for the last 30 years. It's a story of a woman who went from privilege to a cell inside Tijuana's La Mesa prison - but not as a prisoner-as a nun.

After a life of privilege in Beverly Hills that included two marriages, two divorces and seven children, Mary Brenner became a nun at age 50. She said she felt called to Tijuana's most notorious prison.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jody Hammond/Ronn Kilby

Street shot of Tijuana, Mexico and the La Mesa Penitentiary from the film "La Mama: An American Nun’s Life In A Mexican Prison."

Outside prison walls, she founded her own order, Servants of the Eleventh Hour. The sisters of the order are all older women who believe they can make a difference, serving the poorest of the poor.

Despite violence in Tijuana and severe prison overcrowding, Mother Antonia says she will never leave 'sus hijos', the prisoners she considers her sons and daughters. Her story has been captured in the documentary "La Mama: An American Nun’s Life In A Mexican Prison."

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