Anne-Marie Welsh


Sister Norma Pimentel, MCJ
Contributed photo

For a link to register for the conference,

      Sister Norma Pimentel, MCJ, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2020, will headline the featured speakers at the 2020 Virtual Respect Life conference offered, free of charge, by the diocesan Social Justice and Life Office (SJ&L) Oct. 24 from 9:30 am to 1 pm. DeKarlos Blackmon, secretariat director of Life, Charity, and Justice for the Diocese of Austin, Texas, and Ashley Feasley, director of policy for Migration and Refugee Services with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, also will make presentations.

          “Respect life means honoring valuing, learning and advocating for life from conception until natural death,” says Patrice Swick, director of the Office of SJ&L for the Diocese of Erie and the event’s organizer. “We wanted to highlight topics of our faith that we sometimes forget to view through the respect-life lens. If we are going to have a consistent life ethic, that applies to everything, including immigration and racial justice.”

           Swick also decided to include a component on advocacy as part of the initiative.

          “Advocacy can be an intimidating word if you’ve never encountered it before,” she observes. “Even if you know what it means, you may not know how to get started. We hope to discuss why it matters to us as Catholics and how to discern where the Spirit may be calling you to be an advocate in your life.” 

          Sister Norma Pimentel first came to the attention of the general public when she spoke with Pope Francis in 2015 via a virtual town hall arranged by ABC news prior to his visit to the United States. In her role as executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, Sister Norma has been a tireless advocate for the poor. She was instrumental in organizing community resources to meet the needs resulting from the surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States, and speaks often before national and international audiences with a message of caring, restoring human dignity and responding to those most in need.

DeKarlos Blackmon
Contributed photo

          SJ&L is hosting the event during October because the US bishops focus on respect life as a theme throughout the month. The conference will be virtual as a result of the pandemic. Swick invites individuals to participate from home, perhaps with family members, but also encourages parishes that have appropriate protocols in place to gather small groups together in socially distant settings so they can watch together.

          The Most Rev. Lawrence Persico, bishop of Erie, will offer welcoming remarks for the conference, which will include four, 40-minute presentations as well as aprayer component.

          “We want this to be a prayerful experience as well as a learning opportunity,” Swick said.

Ashley Feasley
Contributed photo

          To learn more about the speakers, review the schedule and/or register for the event, visit Registration deadline is Oct. 21.

           The Diocese of EriE-News recently featured Sister Norma in a story that can be found at