Sister Norma S. Pimentel
DAMEN AWARD - INSTITUTE OF PASTORAL STUDIES
Norma Pimentel (MA’95) is a sister with the Missionaries of Jesus devoted to helping people who are marginalized. Sr. Pimentel has been executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley for over 12 years. She oversees the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, providing services to people in need, advocating for justice in social structures, and calling the entire Church and people of good will to do the same.
Before earning her master’s from the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago, Sr. Pimentel earned her bachelor’s in fine arts from the University of Texas–Pan American and a master’s in theology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Upon her return from Loyola to the Rio Grande Valley, her commitment to addressing injustice and the needs of extremely vulnerable people became stronger.
Sr. Pimentel has lived in south Texas by the border with Mexico all her life. She has helped immigrants and refugees since she entered her religious community. In the 1980s, Sr. Pimentel was one of the leaders directing Casa Oscar Romero, a shelter for Central Americans fleeing war-torn countries.
In summer 2014, Sr. Pimentel was instrumental in quickly organizing community resources to respond to the surge of Central Americans seeking protection from violence in their countries. She set up the Humanitarian Respite Center at the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas.
Sr. Pimentel has become the face of the humanitarian response to immigrants, receiving many awards and opportunities to speak about the immigration reality at the border. She testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the “State of Civil Rights in Immigration Detention Facilities.” In March 2015, she spoke on “Women Upholding Human Dignity” at the United Nations.
In 2015, Sr. Pimentel received the Martin Luther King Jr. “Keep the Dream Alive” Award from Catholic Charities USA. Also that year, she was named “Woman of the Year” by the Chamber of Commerce in McAllen, Texas; Rio Grande Valley Citizen of the Year 2015; and one of the 2015 Catholics of the Year by Our Sunday Visitor. In September 2015, she encountered Pope Francis via satellite through a ABC broadcast on a 20/20 special, where Pope Francis told her “I love you!”, and later got to meet the Holy Father.