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Living the Promise of Her Faith: Sister Norma Pimentel

Posted on September 9, 2019 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share


Sister Norma Pimentel, Photo by USDA

By Jim Sliney Jr  

Sister Norma Pimentel is the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV). Of all the places in the country where Catholic Charities services are needed, Sister Pimentel’s charge falls on the busiest theater of US-Mexico immigration activity. When immigrants are released from US Customs and Border Protection, it is into the arms of the CCRGV that most of them arrive. That means over 150,000 immigrants have been helped by Sister Pimentel’s services.

Sister Pimentel has been covered on the news, has had many stories written about her, she has even met the Pope. This is great for raising awareness, but awareness alone doesn’t provide the clean clothes, food, showers and hope that the CCRGV’s Humanitarian Respite Center provides. That takes faith and support. Her mission carries on thanks to the generosity and compassion of many.

Though the spotlight has been on her recently, her vocation goes back to 2004 when she became the director there. She has seen surges of migration that included unaccompanied minors before. In 2014 over 68,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the US-Mexico border. She has seen the darkest aspects of desperate immigration – things we don’t really hear much of in the news. In particular, she has seen how cartels, sex traffickers, and human-smugglers capitalize on desperation and take advantage of families trying to find a better life - a problem that has existed much longer than one US administration.

Catholic Charities of New York wrote about Sister Pimentel in July when a collection of drawings made by children in her care drew the attention of the Smithsonian Institute. What is reflected in those drawings as well as in other expressions from the youth and families that pass through the Respite Center, are unthreatening families that just want opportunity and a better life by escaping persecution.

Despite this, Sister Pimentel and the Humanitarian Respite Center has had to move locations, and endure complaints from the local community. Sister Pimentel told the Global Sisters Report, "The fact that they're immigrants is not a reason to be afraid," she said. "Learning to help people make that distinction is important to me, and I find it more challenging to do because sometimes [the community can be] so close-minded in their beliefs". 

Sister Pimentel also told the Religious Education Congress, “It’s important that we don’t see each other as opposites or as enemies, or as doing separate responsibilities, but that we all have a purpose and a responsibility to care for the people, for God’s people, and the city officials have big responsibilities to listen to and be informed by us, the Church, and the community, and to work together in this response. So, I think that God is very present in all of us, and I think that brings out the best in others as well. I’m speaking of city officials that are also people of faith, and we all have a responsibility to live out our faith within the responsibilities and jobs that we have in our community.” 

Sister Pimentel is a glowing example of determination and living one’s faith through works. Especially today when communication happens without personal contact, it is vital that we not forget the human price attached to our opinions we share and the decisions we make. That is why Catholic Charities’ everywhere are dedicated to cooperative, grassroots program-development in response to local need. There are countless examples of this all across the country, and that means the teachings of Jesus are alive and being put into action. Though it is hurtful that so many people are in need, it is inspiring that so many people are willing to live their faith through action and charity. 

“We’re not just doing something good because it feels good, or because it’s my job. We’re doing something because we are moved by our faith to live out what the kingdom of God is here, today, in our own life, here and now.”  

Sister Pimentel sets a shining example worth emulating.