Imagine Sister Helen Prejean speaking Spanish.
Reporting duo Jordan and Sullivan—Washington Post writers who won the Pulitzer for a series of articles on the Mexican justice system—tell the life story of the extraordinary Mother Antonia, a Catholic sister who lives with and serves the inmates at Tijuana’s La Mesa prison. Mother Antonia is remarkable not only for the constant, countless works of service and mercy she performs, but also because of her background. She grew up well heeled in Beverly Hills and married twice, survived two divorces and reared seven children before moving to the prison. Her strong call to serve the downtrodden began when, unfulfilled by motherhood, her mediocre second marriage and a dull day job, Mother Antonia—then known by her given name, Mary—began collecting clothes and medical supplies that were sent to help the needy in Korea. She excelled in her charity work, and her reputation as an angel of mercy grew. In 1965, a priest acquaintance took her to visit La Mesa. The trip turned into a calling, and Mary, who could not get the suffering Mexican prisoners off her mind or out of her heart, began visiting La Mesa more and more frequently, sometimes spending the night. In 1977, after her second marriage fell apart and her children had grown up, she decided to don a habit and move to the prison. The second half of the story, which chronicles Mother Antonia’s work at La Mesa, drags a little. Admittedly, her good deeds are breathtaking: she convinces Mafia drug-lords to come clean; she gets food, glasses and toilet paper for the prisoners; she helps wrongfully incarcerated men go free. But chapter after chapter of this litany of good works grows tedious—unlike the first half, which culminates in Mary’s move to Tijuana, the second has no change, turning point, tension or climax.
Inspiring, if a touch hagiographic.