Strangers No Longer

Thanks to Sr. Norma Pimentel
for Her Guidance and Inspiration
Sr. Norma Pimentel visited us in Michigan from June 24th through June 26th. Her schedule included stops in Grand Rapids, Romeo, Detroit, and Ann Arbor. At every stop Sr. Norma energized and challenged us to continue to be present for the most marginalized among us--especially the immigrants from Mexico and Central America who have sacrificed everything to find better lives for themselves and their families.

(Click here for more pictures of her visit.)
Sr. Norma said that as she welcomes each person to her respite center she asks, "How are you? ¿Cómo estás?"

So often the person breaks down and cries. She has found that the most important thing we can do is be present and show that we care.
The Current Situation at the Southern Border
The U. S. border is closed and Title 42, keeping people out because of the pandemic, is still in effect. Thousands of people are camped on the other side of the border in Mexico vulnerable to violence and without basic necessities. But Sr. Norma is sure that, if we ended the policy without making a plan for housing, medical care, and basic needs, there will be chaos. We need a plan.
Sr. Norma would like to expand the current process where 50 people from each of the shelters near the border are processed each day. In addition, she wants families to be kept together, instead of separating out the children which further traumatizes them.

Politicians say that we can’t let people in because they are violent or criminals. But Sr. Norma said that in all her years working with immigrants she has never had to call the police on anyone. They are all hard-working people who just want jobs so they can take care of their families in safety.

Sr. Norma says it is not true that the border is in chaos--she knows since she lives there!

Editor's Note: Sr. Norma was here before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the Biden administration on the "Remain in Mexico" policy that requires asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are reviewed in U.S. courts.
"God calls us to keep working. Even if you think you have done enough work and given enough money, God requires more from you. 

God requires a blank check! We need to ask what else can I do? We have to give of ourselves in every possible way."
Catholic High school students from southeastern Michigan are forming Circles of Support in each of their schools, collaborating in their efforts through a new Student Coordinating Committee, with representatives from each of the 12 schools. Their first project together was to collect supplies and money for Sr. Norma before she arrived.

After sharing dinner with her before the event at the Basilica of Ste. Anne, the students processed in with her and presented what they had collected (including $1000, and boxes of soap, underwear, socks and toothbrushes.)

When Sr. Norma received the gifts, she explained to us why she requests socks and underwear. People, including children, arrive wearing their only pair of shoes which are dirty and wet. A dry pair of socks brings them some comfort. They may be wearing their only pair of pants. A change of underwear helps to make them more comfortable as well. We take for granted these small conveniences! We need to remember some people do no have that luxury.

At the end of the presentation, the students placed their hands on her shoulders and blessed her saying:

May God, the companion be with you,
behind you, above and below you.
May you be smothered by God's presence
As you walk the path of your day.
May God's hands catch yours
When you stumble and applaud when you reach your goals.
May God the companion bring you blessing.

written by Sr. Maxine Shonk OP (Adrian Domenican) and adapted for Sr. Norma.
Sr. Norma was asked, "If you had all the money you needed, how would you use it?"

She said she would give money--not to the governments--but to organizations and community agencies in Central America that could help the people directly so that they could stay in their home countries.
Sr. Norma told us many stories about the people she has met at the respite center.

  • There was a 15 year old boy whose father and brother had both died on the journey north.
  • There was a pregnant woman with a 3 year old girl who explained how she came north because of gangs who had tried to kill her daughter. In protecting her child the mother's hand was injured and is now deformed since medical care was not available to her.
  • There were parents who explained how they had to leave home--gangs were going to the schools and kidnapping 8 year old boys.

So many stories about desperation but also about courage--it takes so much courage to leave everything you own and know to come to a place that probably won't want you. But you know you have to try.
Sr. Norma had a chance to spend time with members of our immigrant women's circles and their families.

Some of these leaders came through Sr. Norma's respite center in McAllen, Texas.
Sr. Norma loved being able to see people who she had helped who are making new lives in Michigan.
Many people asked what they could do to help. She encouraged everyone to join Strangers No Longer in order to have opportunities to serve immigrants directly, learn about immigration policies and the effects they have on real people, and to help advocate at the local and federal levels to encourage welcoming the stranger. "There is a lot of work to do and it can only happen if we work together. One stick easily breaks but a bundle of sticks does not."

To join a Circle of Support or to learn more, please email
Sr. Norma once talked to a class of kindergarteners. She told them about the people traveling north in extreme danger so that they can find a safe place to build new lives.

She asked them, "Should we let them in our country?" The children all yelled out "Yes!"

Sr. Norma asked us, when do we lose that openness and desire to help people? Why do we allow inhumane policies to define us?

She told us: "We all have these moments when God wants us to say yes without hesitation. God is calling us to love. Trust the Holy Spirit to show us how."
Sr. Norma quoted this from Pope Francis at every talk she gave over the three days:

"Go to bed at night tired from doing good."
Click here for the article in Detroit Catholic on June 27th regarding Sr. Norma's visit.