Norma Pimentel is a Sister with the Missionaries of Jesus. She captured the attention of the world for her work supporting migrants along the United States-Mexico border in Texas. In 2014, Sister Pimentel helped establish the Humanitarian Respite Center inside the hall of Sacred Heart Catholic Church of McAllen. The makeshift rescue center provided emergency relief and temporary housing for hundreds of thousands of refugees. In 2015, in recognition of her work with migrants, Sister Norma Pimentel received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Keep the Dream Alive Award from Catholic Charities USA. In the same year, she also won a nomination for Texan of the Year. Sr. Norma also received awards from the University of Texas-Pan American and the Texas Medical Association. She is the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Laetare Medal and voted one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2020.
From 2017 to 2021, when Donald Trump cut off all the routes for illegal immigrants to enter the US and the migrant problem escalated, she showed compassion to the migrants and fought for their cause.
Norma Pimentel was born in Brownsville, Texas, on July 1, 1953. She was born to Mexican parents living in Texas. Since her mother was from Matamoros and her father was from Chiapas, in Mexico, she grew up traveling between Brownsville and Matamoros.
With her parents acquiring American citizenship, Norma Pimentel got a chance to grow up in the Land of Dreams – America.
She earned a Bachelors’ degree in Arts from the Pan American University in 1977. During the same time, she took up small assignments to design window displays for clothing stores to earn some money. But she soon began to feel this was not what she loved to do.
Choosing a Religious Life
In a short while, the young Norma Pimentel decided to pursue a religious life. Despite the family dissuading her, she entered the Missionaries of Jesus in 1978. As part of her formation, Norma went to St. Mary’s University and earned her Master of Arts degree in Theology. Soon after, she got her second Master’s in Counseling from the Loyola University Chicago.
In 1980 while working at the Casa Oscar Romero in El Salvador, Sr Norma found her calling. As a licensed professional counselor, she helped save several homes and lives. In 2004, Sister Norma Pimentel became the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. In this role, she actively organized food, shelter, and other necessities for the migrants entering the United States.
The Work of Sister Norma Pimentel
Sister Norma Pimental’s humanitarian work has caught the attention of the world. In 2015, Pope Francis personally thanked her for her work with immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley. She has received several accolades for her work with refugees and migrants. She has featured in newspapers of the world, on 20/20, CNN, 60 Minutes, and more. Sr. Norma Pimentel’s documentary on migration Oh Mercy premiered on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at 5 p.m. EST.
Sr. Pimentel is also a gifted artist. She often paints the refugee families whom she meets in her shelter and then donates them to fundraisers. She also gifted one painting to Pope Francis during his 2015 trip to the United States.
The Mother Teresa of South Texas, Sister Pimentel, will continue to work for migrants who seek the American Dream. According to her, “It is a humanitarian issue, and we must not forget that … We must treat them with dignity and respect, to uphold them as human beings. We must find solutions that are respectful to life and to people.”