Famous nun meets students at University of St. Thomas
The woman famously called “the pope’s favorite nun” made a special trip to Minnesota on Thursday.
Sister Norma Pimentel met with college students at the University of St. Thomas, hoping to encourage them to step outside their “bubbles of comfort.”
Pimentel lives in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border and is well known and highly respected for her work with immigrants and refugees.
“I appreciate the opportunity to talk so that I can help you understand what I see,” Pimentel told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in a one-on-one interview. “Sometimes we see the whole immigration reality happening in our country as a crisis, but I believe we can look at it differently, not so much as a crisis but an opportunity to see how we can be better ourselves.”
Pimentel started working with immigrants decades ago, initially helping shelter migrant families at her convent in south Texas.
She says she gradually befriended Border Patrol agents before ultimately starting a humanitarian movement in the region through Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
Pimentel found unexpected fame during an ABC News special with Pope Francis in 2015, where the Pope unexpectedly spotted Pimentel in the crowd and publicly thanked her for her work.
She later made the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world in 2020. The magazine noted, “Her organization has housed and assisted well over 100,000 people at the border.”
As Pimentel addressed a packed room of college students at St. Thomas, she shared her life story and inspired them to go out into the world and help.
“I want them to walk away with the fact that what they do or don’t do matters,” Pimentel said. “Sometimes we need to pop bubbles so that people can connect and reach out to the realities in their own communities, like the homeless and people who are really at the margins and need help. My job is to make people uncomfortable.”
During Thursday’s visit to Minnesota, Pimentel also toured local efforts to help the homeless in the Twin Cities.
Students said her message resonated with them.
“I would love to make the world a better place,” said senior Maggie Sutton, who hopes to someday work in immigration law. “I want to understand the struggles of the people she’s meeting and helping so that I can help those people as well.”
Pimentel told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she enjoyed the opportunity to connect with young people in Minnesota.
“Make a difference, step up, and use the force within to do it,” Pimentel said. “I hope they get that message loud and clear.”