Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and longtime advocate for immigrants and refugees, will receive the University of Notre Dame’s 2018 Laetare Medal — the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics — at Notre Dame’s 173rd University Commencement Ceremony on May 20 (Sunday).
“Jesus said, ‘when I was a stranger, you invited me in.’ Sister Norma Pimentel has given her life to welcoming Christ in the immigrant and refugee,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “In awarding her the Laetare Medal, Notre Dame celebrates her witness of seeking and generously serving Christ in the most vulnerable.”
Sister Pimentel, a religious sister of the Missionaries of Jesus, has overseen the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville (Texas) since 2008, providing a range of services that includes emergency food and shelter, housing assistance, clinical counseling and pregnancy care to all four counties in the Rio Grande Valley. She was instrumental in organizing local response to the 2014 surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States. This included helping to establish the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.
In 2015, Pope Francis recognized and thanked Sister Pimentel personally for her work with immigrants in a virtual town hall meeting that was featured on ABC’s “20/20.” Also in 2015, she was named one of “Our Sunday Visitor’s” 2015 Catholics of the Year and won a nomination for “Texan of the Year.”