Project Light honors founder, Sister Nora

BRADENTON -- It’s tough to say no to Sister Nora Brick.

Luz Corcuera found that 10 years ago when she met the persuasive Franciscan nun from Ireland’s County Kerry.

It was at Project Light Literacy Center, which Brick founded in 1995 in a humble storefront on 14th Street West to teach English to migrants.

Corcuera, now president of its board of directors, chuckled at the memory after they honored Brick Tuesday.

“You know how it goes,” said the program director for Healthy Start of Manatee County. “Sister Nora tells you, ‘My dear, could you give me a hand with this ...’ and then you can never get away from her.”

Ann Griffin, who, along with husband Ed, helped Brick start Project Light agreed.

“You cannot say no, nor do you want to,” the board member said.

“You want to emulate her,” said Monica Hubbard, a longtime Project Light teacher.

A nun for 64 years, Brick was honored at the Project Light’s annual board meeting for being the founder and for her devotion to immigrants, no matter their race, since she came to Manatee County in 1989.

“It’s a holy and wholesome effort,” the 81-year-old native of Tralee told her supporters. “You take on this wonderful, wonderful work to help people to get out from under abuse and become fully human. Education is the key.”

Brick referenced her own heritage, talking about how education for Irish Catholic children was forbidden during 400 years under English dominion.

That, she said, brought about “hedge schools” in 1700s and early 1800s where educators taught children in rural Ireland despite English suppression.

“There has always been a great thirst for education among the Irish,” said Brick, who also started the Stillpoint House of Prayer on 14th Street West. “It showed the wisdom and courage of the teachers, also the desire in the hearts of the parents for their children’s learning.”

When Project Light started, it had 39 students.

Last year, it had 270.

They anticipate 300 this year, but could use more volunteer teachers.

Presently there are 24, which is low for the center’s needs.

They’ve had to subsequently cut evening classes from four to two weekly.

“We want to re-establish that evening program,” said Jeff Belvo, an Americorps VISTA volunteer. “It’s the only time working people can make it. We can use more volunteers during the daytime, too.”

This is Brick’s legacy, after all.

“She believes in angels and I think she’s an angel herself,” Corcuera said. “She listens to the call for whatever needs to be done to complete her mission. She’s selfless. She loves and everything she does is with love.”