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Sister Nora’s farewell will be emotional

Sitting inside a cramped migrant apartment in east Bradenton fitting children with shoes for school.

Patiently teaching women English at Project Light on 14th Street West.

Giving an unlucky fellow a small check -- and lecture -- at Stillpoint House of Prayer a few blocks down the street.

They are but a few of the images I cherish of Sister Nora Brick.

There’s another one, too, of the smiling 81-year-old Franciscan nun looking sharp in a mint-colored suit at a recent reception honoring her for some of her 30 years of selfless service to our community’s poor.

Manatee County’s Mother Teresa, indeed.

Yet how those pictures clash with the one I can’t get out of my mind from when I last saw Sister Nora.

It was this past Tuesday, the day after she’d been beaten, allegedly by Eliseo Ortiz, a troubled 51-year-old man who’d come to her trailer under the pretense of needing money to call his mother in Mexico for Valentine’s Day.

Sister Nora was asleep in Room 409 at Manatee Memorial Hospital when a nurse woke her and beckoned me into the room so I could express my sympathies and tell her to get well soon.

I did not recognize this holy woman.

Black eyes.

Scabs on her forehead.

A broken nose.

Horrendous.

That someone among the less fortunate whom Sister Nora had ministered to all these years could do this to her was beyond appalling.

It was infuriating.

Our own rose of Tralee -- her birthplace in Ireland’s County Kerry -- lay there battered and bruised.

Yet Sister Nora was not broken.

Her spirit and strength humbled me.

She spoke of Christ and forgiveness and being able to use the rest, albeit a traumatic way to get it.

A rest that means Sister Nora will be moving away from us for good.

What a loss for Manatee County.

Released by the hospital Thursday, Sister Nora continues her recuperation at an undisclosed location here in the community.

Then her order is bringing her back to their home in New Jersey to complete her recuperation and eventually begin retirement, a phase of life those who work with her and share her ministry had anticipated.

Neither she nor they could fathom it would come about in such a violent manner.

The assault on Sister Nora was an assault on us, too.

At some point, Sister Nora is supposed to return to say goodbye and receive the proper sendoff she so richly deserves.

That much is important.

For her.

For us.

We’re blessed with leaders who have enriched our community.

Yet this wisp of a woman, an Irish missionary, touched us in a way that words fail -- in any language.

The bond Sister Nora shares with this community is a deep one.

We have seen how fragile it is, too.

When the time comes to bid her farewell, it will be an occasion filled with love, laughter and tears.

That’s an image that promises to stay with us forever.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.

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