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'Prison Angel' Nun Dead at 86

California native spent decades living in Tijiuana prison
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2013 11:08 AM CDT

(Newser) – Sister Antonia Brenner was raised in Beverly Hills, with people like Cary Grant for neighbors. But as an adult she spent more than three decades living, by choice, in a Tijuana prison cell, surrounded by the convicts she ministered to. Inmates and guards alike referred to Sister Brenner as the "prison angel." She would pray with prisoners; hand out extra toilet paper, tooth brushes, and bail money; and even break up fights and riots at La Mesa State Penitentiary, which is located just over the border from San Diego, the LA Times recalls.

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"Something happened to me when I saw men behind bars. .. I thought a lot about them," wondering if they were well cared-for, Brenner once said of her initial visits to the prison. "When I returned to the prison to live, I felt as if I'd come home." There, she lived as the convicts did, even queuing for morning roll call. Her home was a 10-by-10-foot cell, which the AP notes barely had room for a cot, desk, and folding chair. Brenner died yesterday, at age 86, at her religious order's home base in Tijuana, according to her daughter-in-law. The city's archbishop called her death a "terrible loss" and said she possessed the qualities of a saint. (Read more Antonia Brenner stories.)

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