The Prison Angel


Tijuana
Nathan Gibbs, via Flickr

Robin Basselin and Ryan Geertsma look at a woman who chooses to live in one of the worst prisons in Mexico.

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Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Robin Basselin.

Voice 2

And I'm Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

There is a dark and crowded prison in Tijuana, Mexico. On the third floor of this prison, there are 16 men. Guards have separated these men from the rest of the prison. They are receiving extra punishment. The conditions in this part of the prison are terrible. Some of the men have been there for many weeks.

Voice 2

But on this day, these 16 prisoners begin to fight back. They shout at the guards. They steal a weapon and keys that unlock their small rooms. And then this fight becomes a riot. The prisoners have guns they have secretly moved into the prison. The guards leave and turn off the electricity.

Voice 1

Then, a small woman walks into the prison. She is not afraid of the prisoners or of the guns. She asks the prisoners to drop their guns, but the guns are already gone. The prisoners got rid of the weapons as soon as they heard that this woman was in the prison. These prisoners want the woman to be safe.

Voice 2

Who is this woman? Her name is Mother Antonia. Many people call her "The Prison Angel." Today's Spotlight is on the life and work of Mother Antonia.

Voice 1

Most people would not want to even visit a prison. But Mother Antonia lives in one. She is a Christian nun - a woman who gives her whole life to serving God. She does this by serving, loving, and helping the prisoners each day.

Voice 2

But how did Mother Antonia end up in a prison in Mexico? Well, that is a long story. Mother Antonia did not always know that she wanted to be a nun. But she always loved serving other people.

Voice 1

As a young girl, Mother Antonia's name was Mary. She was born 1926 in the United States. Mary's mother died when Mary was only three years old. Her father, Joseph, loved his family and worked hard to take care of them. Even though Joseph became wealthy, he never forgot about the needs of the poor. And he made sure his children learned from his example.

Voice 2

Mary travelled with her father and often visited people who were sick or suffering. She continued this work as an adult. She donated shoes, sent supplies to hospitals, and visited children who did not have families. She worked with churches, private groups, and hospitals. She worked with organizations in the United States, Peru, and the Philippines. It did not matter where people lived; if they needed help, Mary wanted to help them.

Voice 1

Mary married twice and had 8 children. She devoted much of her time to her family. However, she also always found time to continue serving the poor. She met many famous people through her work, like actors and musicians. But one of the most important men she ever met was a priest.

Voice 2

There is a book about Mother Antonia's life called The Prison Angel. In this book, the authors write about the special relationship between Mary and Father Anthony Brouwers. This friendship changed Mary's life forever.

Voice 1

Mary and Father Anthony met in 1957. Like Mary, Father Anthony served the poor. Father Anthony devoted his whole life to serving other people, and he encouraged Mary to do the same.

Voice 2

Seven years after Mary met Father Anthony, he became sick with cancer. Before he died, Anthony said something special to Mary. These words are recorded in the book The Prison Angel. He said,

Voice 3

"Do you see why you are where you are? You say that you want to go away to your own house, and take care of yourself. But that was not meant for you. You are standing with the poor. That is where you belong. God put you in that place, Mary."

Voice 1

In 1965, one year after Father Anthony died, Mary met another man who changed her life. Father Vetter was a priest who worked in Mexico. He had heard about the work Mary did, and he invited her to come to La Mesa prison in Tijuana, Mexico. This was one of the worst prisons in Mexico. There, she saw more need than she could have imagined. In The Prison Angel, she explained what she saw that first day:

Voice 4

"The prisoners just looked like sick people. Poor, yes. But I did not see anyone I would be afraid to talk to. I thought, this is a poor place - not fearful, not dark, not dangerous. Just poor."

Voice 2

For the next two years, Mary continued to visit La Mesa. She did not speak Spanish, but she communicated with the men through motions. In The Prison Angel, she said,

Voice 4

"Kindness shows you care. A smile shows you care. Reaching out and holding a hand shows you care."

Voice 1

Mother Antonia loved the prisoners so much that she decided to move into the prison. She wanted to serve as a nun. But at that time, the Catholic Church did not accept divorced or older women. However, this did not stop Mary. She decided to become an independent nun. So on March 19th, 1977, at the age of 51, Mary became Mother Antonia. She chose the name Antonia in honor of her friend, Father Anthony. This kind of name change is common for nuns. Twenty years later, church leaders permitted her to form a religious community. They are called the Servants of the Eleventh Hour. They accept all women who want to serve, whether they are widowed, divorced, or older.

Voice 2

Life in a prison is hard, but Mother Antonia believes La Mesa prison is where God wants her to live. Even now, in her 80s, she continues to serve with a smile on her face. Sometimes she serves by making big changes. This includes her work with prison authorities to get better treatment for prisoners, including protesting beatings. But most of the time, she serves in small ways – like listening, bringing a blanket, or making a meal. The prisoners love her. And the guards love her too. This is because she always shows love to them. When people tell her she is special, she does not understand why. In The Prison Angel, she said,

Voice 4

"People think what I do is special. But look at me. What am I doing? Anyone can do it. There are so many things people can do. It does not have to be big. It is the little things that matter. Anyone can make a meal."

Voice 1

The writer of this program was Lauren Anders. The producer was Ryan Geertsma. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called "The Prison Angel." We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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Question:

How do you serve others? Is it difficult for you to serve them? Or do you enjoy it?

Comments


elizabeth.979's avatar
elizabeth.979
said on May 23, 2011

=)

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Ruth2612
said on June 04, 2012

I like this topic! Thanks.

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NightlyOwl
said on June 08, 2012

I admire this woman. Such people are few. Many people understand what she was doing for those prisoners,but only a few can devote their lives to to this case.

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chamoW
said on June 08, 2012

Prision angel really is a brave woman, because she is in a danger place, but she es lucky too
because all prisioners respect her.

Is was an amazing program, thanks a lot.

humble71's avatar
humble71
said on June 08, 2012

Admirable and humble woman . Really, we can serve or do useful things for others , it’s possible we feel nonsense to give time to poor people because it doesn’t mean or represent payment for us, we have listened since we were kids that “time is gold” . But , she is demonstrating us , it’s possible to help no mater if you’re old, divorced,widow , widower or not a member of a church., or rich or poor. She wanted to give her life to prisoners and felt that her time is good to give them freely.  I like this woman and she encourages everybody to change our way to live between our community.

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Dela
said on June 09, 2012

Mother Antonia had got endless love for all poor people in her heart and that is why she wasn’t afraid of coming to a prison even living in it..By that way she found what prisoners need, her work for them was very creditable although also hard.Amazing woman!

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kenhieuloilam
said on April 23, 2020

Our lives have meaning when we have hope. Our lives do not have meaning when we do not have hope. We have chance of correcting our wrong doings and we have hope. We have big suffering when we do not have hope. Difficulties and sufferings make us purer. Difficulties and sufferings pass by. We know to aim at good thing. We know to keep away from not-good thing. Our lives have meaning when we have hope. Our lives do not have meaning when we do not have hope. If we experience difficulties and sufferings, we will love persons having difficulties and persons having sufferings. If we experience difficulties and sufferings, we will love everyone.