Loyola University Chicago

Loyola Magazine

archive

A voice for the voiceless

A voice for the voiceless

Sister Norma Pimentel is a tireless advocate for families, and especially children, through her work with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

Sister Norma Pimentel is passionate about caring for immigrant families in the Rio Grande Valley

By Lauren Krause (BA ’10)

When Sister Norma Pimentel (MA ’95) advocates for the needs of her community, it’s through paint. The executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley spends her free time illustrating the lives of the people she supports. “I paint things that will reflect a little bit about some aspect of what I do,” she said.

Although painting is just a hobby, Pimentel is able to weave her interests in supporting immigrants, homelessness, poverty, and those affected by natural disaster onto her canvas. She describes one particular painting about a family who came to the respite center from Honduras.

“I watched this mother sitting there staring at her son just looking with a daze,” she said. “I captured in that moment the presence of what that family had been through, the sadness and the suffering.”

Aside from painting, Pimentel finds that social justice is at the heart of everything she does, which includes caring for and speaking on behalf of immigrants. She describes her greatest achievement as acting as a voice for the voiceless—something she credits to her time at Loyola’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, where she earned a master’s degree in pastoral counseling.

“Loyola opened my eyes to understand the human person in a more holistic way,” she said. “The program brought me to a greater awareness of the importance of what our role is as a church and who we are as people and how we can help others.” 

After graduation, Pimentel contacted Catholic Charities and began working with a church that helped the underserved. “To actually work with families in the Rio Grande Valley and to address the needs that families, and specifically children, is what I was most concerned for,” she said. She parlayed her education and work experience into a counselor position, and received her professional license in Texas.

Between counseling and painting, Pimentel is dedicated to her community thoroughly. She welcomes those struggling to obtain citizenship and argues on behalf of immigrant rights. “These are people, not illegals,” she said. “They need care and attention, and it’s our responsibility to do that.”

Pimentel urges anyone to get involved in his or her community or a community in need: “If the rest of the world is not OK,” she said, “we should not be OK either.”