By Amanda L. Alaniz
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV Distinguished Alumni Sister Norma Pimentel has been named to the Time 100 Most Influential People.
The prominent list recognizes the most influential people in the world, including celebrities, community leaders, athletes, politicians, influencers, scientists and front-line workers.
Pimentel made the “ICONS” list in recognition of her work dedicated to making a difference in the lives of immigrants and refugees coming into the United States along the U.S. – Mexico border.
As executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, she directs efforts to provide shelter, food, sanctuary and comfort to the people who most need it. She helped organize resources in response to the surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States in 2014 and helped open the Humanitarian Respite Center at the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen.
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro wrote a heartfelt tribute about Pimentel’s compassionate efforts to help her community.
“Her boundless hope and fearless compassion have earned her the moniker of ‘the Pope’s favorite nun.’ Sister Pimentel will keep changing the world, one act of kindness at a time,” Castro said in the Time 100 feature.
SISTER NORMA’S STORY
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Pimentel was born in Brownsville, while her parents waited to hear from United States immigration officials about their applications for residency. She grew up traveling between Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico, to be able to spend time with her family on both sides of the border.
She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UTRGV legacy institution Pan American University in 1977, and furthered her education by earning a Master of Arts degree in Theology from St. Mary’s University and a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from Loyola University in Chicago, IL.
UTRGV Distinguished Alumni Sister Norma Pimentel has been named to the Time 100 Most Influential People. (UTRGV Archival Photo by Silver Salas)
“Sister Norma Pimentel’s work has benefitted thousands of people. We are proud to call her our own,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said during the UTRGV 2019 Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony, where she was one of the honorees.
Pimentel’s devoted humanitarian work has received significant accolades. In 2015, Pope Francis personally thanked her for her work with immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley. And in 2018, she was awarded the Laetare Medal by Notre Dame University for her work with refugees and migrants. The medal is the highest and oldest award given to Catholics in the United States.
She also was received the Community Service Award from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation during the 31st annual Hispanic Heritage Awards held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
Pimentel said she is thankful for the recognition from Time and hopes the honor will bring forth awareness for the Valley’s needs.
“This moment is an opportunity for me to share this joy, this great moment of recognition of us. It’s truly a recognition of the Rio Grande Valley because it is who we are, because of what we have been able to do together,” she said. “We’ve been able to actually make a difference in the lives of hundreds, thousands of people who have come through our Rio Grande Valley. We have stood up for humanity, for the dignity of all people that we see before us that are hurting.
“So, I take this opportunity to make sure the world can hear, everyone can know people in the Rio Grande Valley. We’re good people, people with a beautiful heart,” she said. “I thank Time for recognizing me and putting me as one of the 100 influential people in the world. This is truly a wonderful honor, but it is an honor for all of us.”
To see the full list of the Time 100 Most Influential People, click here.