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The Prison Angel: Mother Antonia's Journey from Beverly Hills to a Life of Service in a Mexican Jail Paperback – May 30, 2006


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The Prison Angel: Mother Antonia's Journey from Beverly Hills to a Life of Service in a Mexican Jail + The Equipping Pastor: A Systems Approach to Congregational Leadership + The Leader's Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014303717X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143037170
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After a wealthy childhood in Beverly Hills, two failed marriages and much spiritual searching, Mary Clarke put on a homemade habit and headed down to the most notorious prison in Tijuana, Mexico, where she has lived and worked since 1977. Alternately described as "a hustler," "a refreshing Coca-Cola in the desert" and "an oasis of purity," this intriguing Californian believes in the goodness of all people. Vicious murderers, deplorable dealers, society's drifters—Clarke, now known as Mother Antonia, ministers to all of them, brings them donated blankets, even convinces dentists to fix their rotting teeth and plastic surgeons to remove their gang tattoos. And all get hugs. Jordan and Sullivan, who report from Mexico for the Washington Post, paint a portrait of this remarkable woman with a light touch, rarely digressing into lyricism or political backstories. In fact, there are times when readers may feel that complex lives are oversimplified, and that the moral quandaries of Mother Antonia's universe are paved over. But the authors tell her stories simply, and with dignity, allowing Mother Antonia's passionate determination to come through without cliché and beautifully illustrating her rare approach to society's wayward and forgotten. Agent, Sterling Lord. (May 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

At 77, Mother Antonia lives among drug traffickers and other criminals in a jail cell in La Mesa prison in Tijuana, Mexico, dispensing spiritual and material care to prisoners and their families. Jordan and Sullivan, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters with the Washington Post, spent three years researching the long, astonishing journey of a woman who, at the age of 50, left the comforts of suburban L.A. to begin a charity mission in Mexico. Twice divorced and with seven adult children, the former Mary Clarke brought a full lifetime of perspective to her work, attracting the attention of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, who blessed her mission. Despite her own poor health, Mother Antonia visits lepers, buries the dead who are unidentified, offers spiritual counseling to brutal prison guards, and squelches a riot when prisoners are overcome by their horrific living conditions. This is an inspiring story of one woman's compassion and her own journey of spiritual growth. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Her story and life is incredible.
jazzy
Just as in her life, this book will teach you that Christ is alive and each of us must only "follow" and He will be revealed.
grace is enough
A very sad day for all those that knew and loved Mother.
cathy love to read

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Bender on May 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mother Antonia is the essence of love, and yet she makes you laugh, makes you feel cherished, and makes you feel like a better person. She is so spunky and exudes life, and despite her small and short frame, she has stories that are so intense that it scares you, yet amazes you at how someone can love the unlovable so sincerely. This book captures her spirit and her overflowing love so well, and it also shows the other side of her, which is so courageous that she even stands up to some of Mexico's most notorious druglords. I wish that everyone could meet her, and that is why I am so excited that this book exists, so that everyone can have a chance to get to know what she is like. I read this book in a day because I could not put it down. There are so many on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories that it captures you. It made me think, laugh, cry, made me want to make more of my life, made me want to give, and helped me to love more. Mother Antonia is a gift and a blessing to everyone that meets her or reads her story.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Edward A. Gargan on May 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan have written a rare and intimate book, one that traces the densely complex life of an american housewife from the glades of beverly hills to the cold and violent cells of a mexican prison; rare because journalists seldom plumb inner lives, and intimate because they lived with mother antonia in the prison where she works. this volume is rare as well because as much as it chronicles a life of consumate goodness, it does so within the harsh and often deadly atmosphere of mexican criminal life, the drug wars, vendettas, vengeance and betrayals. i read this book in one sitting; it cannot be put down.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Loarie TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mary Clarke - an Irish beauty who grew up in Beverly Hills with neighbors including William Powell, Spencer Tracy, and Dinah Shore; married at age 19; divorced twice; successfully ran her father's company as a single mom of seven - now serves a "life sentence" in Tijuana's La Mesa prison. Clarke's journey from affluence to living in a prison cell "with rats, nasty smells, and nastier graffiti" is detailed in a captivating and inspiring book, "The Prison Angel," by authors Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan.

This is no ordinary story as Clarke's "life sentence" was a choice...a choice by her to leave a comfortable world and a family to live with and serve people nobody goes near, those suffering in prison - the poor unable to afford a good defense, those serving unjust sentences, those brutally beaten by guards and other inmates. Today, still a "beauty" at age 84, Clarke is known worldwide as Mother Antonia (La Madre Antonia), "The Prison Angel," a woman who has inspired millions over 33 years with her message of forgiveness and inclusion, and "her supernatural" goodness and love.

Mother Antonia felt she was at a crossroads in life while still in her forties. Her kids were just about out of the house and she was being drawn to works of charity. She inquired about becoming a nun but found that religious orders were only interested in young women. She felt that closing the door to older women who wanted to devote their lives to serving the Church just seemed wrong and later would change this.

Two priests influenced her direction. Monsignor Anthony (her name Antonia honors him) Brouwers who was devoted to missionary causes told her "Mary, your love for the poor is supernatural." And Fr.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By S. Purathur on June 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a very wonderful book!! It's the story of a Catholic nun, Mother Antonia, who is basically like another Mother Theresa, and their stories are quite different. Whereas Mother Theresa helped the poor, and realizing her calling joined the ranks of an order. This nun helps prisoners, and became a nun in a very roundabout way. Born into a rich life, she could have had anything she wanted. She grew up in the Hollywood of the 50s and 60s. And yet somehow this woman became a nun who served prisoners in the Mexican town of Tijuana. She LIVES there, in the prison itself! Very moving (and true) story of how someone who could have had it all CHOSE to live a life of humility, service, and love for Christ.

I absolutely loved it and it was one of those books where you can't help but smile with a tear in your eye, knowing that people like her still exist on this earth. I highly recommend it! :)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Wilkinson on July 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There was an interesting interview with the authors on NPR on the Diane Rehm show 7/21/2005

[...]
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R.J. on August 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a terrific biography. When you think about all the hype given to political biographies, ghost-written and self-serving; it is a great pleasure to read about a genuine, saintly, and totally giving human being. Don't just read it to learn about Mother Antonia . . . read it to change your life for the better.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on June 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is amazing and wonderful that such people as Mother Antonia exist. She lives and works in the prison in one of Mexico's most notorious jails, a place I would be afraid to even visit. Just to read about her life is frightening.

It is also encouraging as we come to understand that one person can make a difference, that her innate goodness is repaid many times over by the prisoners under her care.

The two authors of this book won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of Mexico's criminal justice system. They are an ideal pair to look at this small facet of the Mexican system.

It's an incredible story. Mother Antonia's ability to live this way and to have been able to convince others to help are a sign that maybe, must maybe things aren't as bad as they seem.
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