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STUDENTS PUT MISSION INTO PRACTICE AT DETROIT BASILICA

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June 30, 2022; updated July 2, 2022

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Notre Dame students join others in Detroit to meet and support Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and longtime advocate for immigrants and refugees.

Valentina (Maria) Sedano, a Notre Dame Prep rising sophomore, is with Sr. Norma Pimentel, M.J., as she speaks on behalf of NDP and 10 other local high schools before presenting Pimentel with a large collection of needed supplies for shelters at the U.S. southern border. The event was held at the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit.


Students from Notre Dame Prep played a key role Saturday in a special event sponsored by Strangers No Longer, a network of Catholics in Michigan assisting undocumented residents with education, accompaniment and advocacy.

Held at the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit, located in the Richard-Hubbard neighborhood near the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Central Station, the event featured Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., a leading national advocate for immigration rights and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, in Brownsville, Texas, who spoke about the effect of U.S. immigration policy at the southern border.

According to rising sophomore Valentina (Maria) Sedano, who attended with NDP students Allison Voto, a rising senior, and Kate VanNorwick, a rising junior, listening to Pimentel was was both eye-opening and inspiring.

"Hearing her speak about her journey in helping immigrants and the challenges she's encountered motivated me to continue to work toward raising awareness in the NDPMA community and beyond," said Sedano, who spoke at the event on behalf of students at NDP and the 11 other high schools who also were at the presentation.

The Notre Dame Prep students also had raised funds throughout the school year for much-needed provisions to be distributed to the immigrant community in the southern United States.  

Notre Dame Prep Allison Voto and Kate VanNorwick, left, are with a group of student representatives presenting Pimentel with donation gifts for border shelters. 


Pimentel, a member of the Catholic religious order of Missionaries of Jesus (MJ), has been publicly commended by Pope Francis for her inspiring work with immigrants and has been called the pope’s “favorite nun.” In 2020, Time magazine named Sister Norma one of the 100 most influential people of the year. In April, she received the Peace and Freedom Award from the interfaith Pacem in Terris Coalition of Davenport, Iowa. Past recipients of that award have included President John F. Kennedy, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., R. Sargent Shriver, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Lech Walesa, Sister Simone Campbell, S.S.S., and Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama.

Bill O’Brien, executive director of Strangers No Longer, a network of Catholics in Michigan assisting undocumented residents with education, accompaniment and advocacy, said Pimentel has been on the front lines of the immigration crisis in the U.S. for decades.

"Sister Norma has been witnessing first-hand the effect of U.S. immigration policy at our southern border, including the 2020 Title 42 order barring individuals without documentation from entering the U.S. As our nation contemplates ending Title 42, anti-immigration public sentiment is growing.”

Della Lawrence, from Notre Dame's campus ministry department, who brought the NDP students to Saturday's event along with NDP religion teacher Heather Stiverson, said the students presented Pimentel with desperately needed underwear and toiletries for immigrants — such as toothpaste and soap — which will be sent to her ministry in Brownsville, Texas.

Members of the student delegation at Saturday's event are blessing Pimentel along with others present at the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit.


"Allison Voto assisted with the money collection from the evening and brought the basket up to Sr. Norma to be blessed by Monsignor Chuck Kosanke, who is pastor of Ste. Anne de Detroit," said Lawrence. "All of the students from the various schools at the end stood around Sr. Norma and prayed over her and for the men, women and children she cares for."

Lawrence also said Notre Dame's students spoke to Adam Perry, the director of Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan (CCSEM), who was at Saturday's event. She said they will be meeting with him over the summer to plan a community walk in Pontiac in September to bring more awareness to the needs of immigrants and refugees. 

VanNorwick said Pimentel gave a truly inspiring talk at the basilica.

"Sister Norma offered a new perspective about a very real issue," said VanNorwick. "She said something that especially stuck with me: 'I’m not helping immigrants, I’m helping people,' which is what we are trying to do as a Circle of Support group. We hope to bring awareness to all of the things happening at the border and all of the struggles that they face. We also hope to help through fundraising and possibly even a mission trip. It was truly a wonderful opportunity that I was glad to have."

NDP sophomore Sedano added that Pimentel's talk detailed her experiences visiting detention centers that were full of young immigrant children. 

"She walked into a detention center and saw young children inconsolably crying with their eyes filled with tears," Sedano said. "Sister Norma mentioned that the children would tell her 'Sácame de aquí,' which translates to 'get me out of here.'"

Sedano added that Pimentel motivated her to continue working toward spreading awareness in the local community and continue to work for immigrants rights. 

"Toward the end of her talk, she said something that really, really stayed with me. She said 'I don't help immigrants, I help people.' As I heard Sister Norma say this, I thought about the difference that is often made between immigrants and non-immigrants. I thought about the injustices and difficulties that immigrant families navigate on a day-to-day basis. Her visit was a one-of-a-kind experience that left Allison, Kate and me motivated and prepared to help immigrants and to continue to work toward equality and spread more awareness of the situation at the border."

Notre Dame campus minister Della Lawrence, far left, joins NDP sophomore Valentina (Maria) Sedano, Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., senior Allison Voto and junior Kate VanNorwick after Pimentel's presentation in Detroit.

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.