This is a first for me. I’m writing an obituary for someone who I didn’t know lived until they died. The person in question is a woman called Antonia Brenner, widely known as Mother Antonia. She was a twice-divorced woman who, one day, decided to be a nun. The Vatican was, of course, rather appalled since she was twice-divorced (or rather, in their eyes, not divorced and committing adultery), and it was several years before her and her order were recognized.
And what did Mother Antonia do once she was a nun? She traveled from her home in San Diego to a prison in Tijuana, Mexico. There she provided for their spiritual needs and also their more material ones. She eventually even moved into the prison, occupying a small cell in the women’s area to be near her charges. Also, this from the New York Times obituary:
Ms. Brenner began providing for inmates’ basic needs, giving them aspirin, blankets, toiletries and prescription eyeglasses. She sang in worship services. She received a prison contract to sell soda to prisoners and used the proceeds to bail out low-level offenders. If a prisoner died, of illness or in a gang fight, she prepared him for burial.
Inmates told how Mother Antonia once walked into the middle of a prison riot while bullets flew and tear gas filled the air. When the inmates saw her, fearless in her habit, the fighting stopped. She never seemed to stop smiling.
She was apparently a brave and good woman. I never knew of her before today, and I already feel the world is made less by her absence.