At today’s address before the United States Congress, Pope Francis touched on some of the most divisive issues in American politics.
One of those issues has special resonance in along the Texas-Mexico border.
“We must not be taken aback” by immigrants and refugees, Pope Francis said, “but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces. In recent centuries, millions people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.”
Although it’s too soon to say whether that appeal changed any hearts and minds, one Texan in particular has great reason to applaud this moment on Capitol Hill.
Sister Norma Pimentel runs a welcome center for immigrants at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas. Earlier this month, the pope appeared on a giant screen via satellite – a virtual visit to the church.
The pontiff waved Sister Pimentel up to the camera so he could see her and speak with her directly, thanking all sisters of religious orders in the U.S.
“Is it inappropriate for the pope to say this? I love you all very much,” Pope Francis said. Today, Sister Pimentel is in Washington D.C. where she attended the same events as Pope Francis.
“I’ve been very happy to see him and be part of this historical event,” Pimentel says. She’s set to meet the Holy Father face-to-face in New York.
Her community’s humanitarian efforts include providing places to shower, clothes, medical attention and counseling services to migrants.
“Our community in the Rio Grande Valley — specifically McAllen, Texas — they were wanting to do something and to help the families, and so as leaders of Catholic Charities, I took that initiative and helped make sure the response was organized and was successful,” Pimentel says.