Most of you don’t know who Mother Antonia Brenner is. First, we need to know Mary Clarke.
Mary Clarke came from a great upbringing in Beverly Hills, but like a Hollywood starlet gone wrong, she married young at age 18, but lasted like a typical Hollywood marriage: not long. She then got married again. It lasted for 25 years until they divorced. Twice divorced with eight kids and a good upbringing, Mary seems set for life, until she went to a Mexican prison that changed her life.
Oh no, she wasn’t in trouble with the law. She was helping prisoners at La Mesa in Tijuana, Mexico. After her second divorce, she moved to San Diego to go take trips to take care of prisoners at La Mesa and help raise her children. For most of the time, she lived in a 10 x 10 cell so if anything happens to anyone and give them the proper respect as a human.
Normally as a Catholic, Mary’s actions would admit her to sisterhood (being a nun). However, there was one problem: she was divorced. Although she sounded and acted like a nun, she couldn’t be officially called a nun because of the Catholic Church’s strict guidelines on how to be a nun and being married (and divorced) disqualifies you. You know what Mary did: nothing.
Mary continue to volunteer support the prisoners and families involved. She didn’t argue with the hierarchy to accept her in the religious order, she forced the issue by action. In the 1970s, after realizing her work was important to humanity, the Bishops of Tijuana and San Diego officially accepted her work and was accepted to sisterhood at age 50; thus creating the Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour, a ministry for older single, divorced, or widowed women. In later years, she rename herself Mother Antonia Brenner, named after a priest that first introduce her to La Mesa. She recently passed away at 86.
Why am I telling this story?
Imagine Mother Antonia as a social entrepreneur. She is doing omen’s work by going into the heart of the matter; while others, who are making the key decisions, decide what it is best for the nonprofit based on business decisions and not looking at the bigger picture. Sure, nonprofits need funding, but they need attention to get funding. Nonprofits wish they get the attention of Blake Mycoskie’s TOMS Shoes, Scott Harrison’s Charity:Water, or Mother Antonia. The reason they get attention is because they really care for the cause and are 100% committed to it.
I am not questioning most nonprofits for their commitment to the mission, but sometimes nonprofits try to find the bottom line, which in turn, might be why nonprofits lose their focus on their overall mission.
What nonprofits need to do is find people who do the work that is in the spirit of their mission. It might be volunteers, their own employees, or someone outside the organization. The reason people come to nonprofits is to make a difference in society. Look for humanity and find your Mother Antonia Brenner.