Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and longtime advocate for immigrants and refugees, received the 2018 Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics, at the University of Notre Dame's 173rd Commencement Ceremony on May 20.
Sister Pimentel spoke on her own experiences as a child of Mexican immigrants and urged graduates to listen to God's call to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable and to be a voice for the voiceless.
“Today our country, our world for that matter, is divided, polarized in two opposing sides,” Sister Pimentel said. “Those who believe we are called to primarily defend and protect ourselves — and those who believe we have a moral responsibility to defend and protect everyone we can.”
According to Notre Dame News:
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.
Watch her full commencement speech below.