Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 21, 1934 when Father James J. Kane offered Madison's first Mass in Madison's Memorial Town Hall.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey

20180311T1604 0241 CNS LAETARE MEDAL PIMENTEL 800Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and a longtime advocate for immigrants and refugees, will receive the University of Notre Dame's 20118 Laetare Medal at the school's graduation ceremony May 20. Sister Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, is pictured in a Feb. 19 photo. (CNS photo/Barbara Johnston, courtesy University of Notre Dame) NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) -- Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and a longtime advocate for immigrants and refugees, will receive the University of Notre Dame's 2018 Laetare Medal at the school's graduation ceremony May 20.

"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," Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame president, said in announcing the award March 11.
The Laetare Medal is so named because its recipient is announced each year on Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

Sister Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, has overseen the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, since 2008, providing those in need in the Rio Grande Valley with emergency food and shelter, housing assistance, clinical counseling and pregnancy care.

She was instrumental in organizing local response to the 2014 surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States, which also included helping to establish the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, providing newly arrived immigrants with food, clothing, water and a place to rest.

In 2015, Pope Francis personally thanked Sister Pimentel for her work with immigrants in a virtual town hall meeting featured on ABC's "20/20." That same year she was named one of Our Sunday Visitor's 2015 Catholics of the Year and won a nomination for "Texan of the Year."

Sister Pimentel said she was "truly honored" to be chosen for the award, noting that it "brings forth the cries of the suffering for the world to hear." She thanked the university for the recognition and for "being a voice for immigrants in our midst."

As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, Sister Pimentel frequently crossed the border back and forth from Brownsville to Matamoros, Mexico, to be with family on both sides of the border. She was born in Texas while her parents were awaiting response from U.S. authorities on their application for residency.

In her reflection on immigrants in the book A Pope Francis Lexicon, Sister Pimentel wrote: "I am a U.S. citizen by chiripa -- sheer chance," noting that she grew up in two countries, Mexico and the United States.

She received a bachelor of fine arts degree from Pan American University, a master's degree in theology from St. Mary's University and a master's degree in counseling psychology from Loyola University Chicago.

She has said that some of her most formative and pivotal experiences took place shortly after she professed final vows and Border Patrol agents were bringing immigrant families to the convent, often late at night.

Sister Pimentel said Sister Juliana Garcia, her religious superior at the time, "would immediately prepare a room to welcome the family when they arrived. The mother and her children would become part of our community family for about a week or so, and I quickly learned the importance of living out our faith by how we welcome and protect those who need us."

Established at Notre Dame in 1883, the Laetare Medal has been awarded annually at Notre Dame to a Catholic "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity."

Past recipients of the award have included President John F. Kennedy, Dorothy Day, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Civil War Gen. William Rosecrans, labor activist Msgr. George G. Higgins, jazz composer Dave Brubeck and Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.