Welcoming you to Notre Dame, we acknowledge the titles and contours of a sterling ecclesial résumé:
A religious sister of the Missionaries of Jesus, as executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, you oversee the efforts of the Diocese of Brownsville to provide food, shelter, medical care and hope to the poor of all four of the Valley’s counties. Organizing a merciful local response to the first surge of Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the United States four years ago, you helped found the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, which has since welcomed and assisted tens of thousands of souls seeking safety and refuge. Recently praising you as an exemplar for all American women religious, Pope Francis, unable to restrain his affection, blurted, “Is it appropriate for a pope to say this? I love you all very much!”
The daughter of Mexican immigrants , you became an American citizen by sheer chance, born in Texas while your parents awaited a government decision on their application for U.S. residency and raised entre dos fronteras. Your kinfolk come from Brownsville and from Matamoros; like so many others of the region, yours is one family, one community, one people, residing in two nations.
In a homeland straddling both banks of the Rio Grande, you lived a family life, as you would later forge a ministry, in contention with walls. You learned how walls cleave countries, communities, and Communions, and how they harrow human hearts and souls. No wonder you enlisted in the service of a Kingdom without walls, and of a King who tears them down.
For your recognition of the face of Christ beyond the wretched walls we build and your intolerance of all that barricades us from Our Immigrant Lord, for your beckoning us to the breach through which we may welcome Him and find the gift of our own salvation, for your vision of the dignity of the universal human pilgrimage to the Father and the kindnesses you extend to those on every stage of that journey, the University of Notre Dame, his Mother and our own, rejoices to confer on you its highest honor, the Laetare Medal, on
Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J.
San Juan, Texas