Norma Pimentel, a light on the path of thousands of migrants

WORK. Sister Pimentel has seen the flow of migrants increase over the years. | Photo: Efe / Jairo Alberto Mejía.

Sister Norma Pimentel, of the Missionaries of Jesus, runs a shelter in the city of Brownsville, Texas, where she welcomes migrants and anyone from the community in search of shelter, food; and a place to wash up and rest.

As of September 2020, the Mexican-American nun had helped more than 100,000 immigrants according to Time, which last year named her one of the most influential people in the world for more than four decades of service.

Pimentel’s work represents remarkable work on behalf of the Hispanic community that comes to the United States in search of a better future, often fleeing violence in Central American countries. The sister serves as executive director of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Foundation, an organization that is a branch of the Diocese of Brownsville.

SUPPORT. Pimentel helps families and especially migrant children in Texas. | Photo: Twitter @nspimentel.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious presented Pimentel with the Outstanding Leadership Award, during the organization’s annual assembly held on August 16, 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Sister Pimentel’s story has been known not only in the United States but throughout the world. During the administration of Donald Trump it was planted as a criticism of policies such as “Zero Tolerance” that caused the separation of hundreds of families.

Origins of Norma Pimentel

The community leader was born in Brownsville on July 1, 1953, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and grew up traveling to one side and the other of the US-Mexico border. His father is a native of Chiapas and his mother is from Matamoros, according to a biography on the web portal Global Sisters Report.

He began working with migrants in 1980, when a bishop commissioned the Missionaries of Jesus to oversee a refugee facility at Casa Oscar Romero. There Pimentel was dedicated to the defense of immigrant families and children for approximately a decade.

AFFECTED. Pimentel “fills his heart and soul” to be able to welcome migrants, he said. | Photo: Twitter @nspimentel.

Pimentel has a Bachelor of Arts from Universidad Panamericana, a Master of Theology from St. Mary’s University, and a Master of Counseling from Loyola Chicago University.


VOLUNTEERING. In the Foundation there is a group of people who accompany and help migrants. | Photo: Twitter @nspimentel.

Known as the nun or the “angel of migrants,” Pimentel said that it is an honor to be recognized by people, to accompany them when they suffer and to be identified with them. This was expressed in an interview offered via Zoom to Telemundo in April of this year.

Regarding the recognition in Time, he noted in Spanish: “I think this was great news for me, in particular because I am pleased that by naming me and recognizing the work I do, they recognize the many immigrants and families that I see, and know that they are worthy of human dignity, and for that reason I applaud those recognitions ”.

He commented that the growing number of migrants arriving at the United States border, hoping to enter a country where they are protected, seems incredible to him. She “fills her heart and soul” to be able to welcome these people, especially children.

In her work, Pimentel is not alone, since she has a group of volunteers who help the migrants in the Foundation, among them religious women from all over the United States.

Pope’s message

In May of this year, Pope Francis sent a videotaped message to Sister Norma. In it, he expressed his “thank you” five times for his work in Texas.

“Thank you for what you and your entire team are doing (…) Thank you for welcoming them, for receiving these migrants who come looking for a better life, they come to progress; others come fleeing from true social hells. Thank you sister, thank you for your team ”, said the Pope.

He added: “I accompany you from here, I pray for you and for all the people who accompany you in this work (…) God bless you … May God bless you very much.”

And now?

Pimentel’s effort does not end in helping people at the border, it also maintains an activism in the political sphere to demand changes in the decisions made in Washington DC.

On September 6 of this year, The Washington Post published a letter from Pimentel in which he exhorted President Joe Biden to act on the Supreme Court’s decision to keep the Migrant Protection Protocols in force, a policy known as “Stay in Mexico.”

“I am writing to you today to appeal to your sense of morality, human dignity and as a fellow Catholic (…) As the litigation against you progresses through the court system, I urge you to act. These legal complications and our backward immigration court system cannot become an excuse to leave thousands of people in extreme conditions, especially when there are other options available, ”the Pimentel article reads.

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