Building the Faith

To visit the Coastal Catholics website, click here
To view the Coastal Catholics Newman Center campaign video, click here

Have you ever had the chance help build something special? How about something that aligns directly with your core beliefs while at the same time benefiting those who need it most?

Currently, I am lucky enough to be associated with a group at Coastal Carolina University that is poised to make a big difference in the lives of thousands of students at CCU. This group is led by a dedicated and faithful individual with passionate students and loyal faculty/staff/community members helping to lead the charge.

I am proud to be associated with the Coastal Catholics.

But first, a quick personal story…

During my time in college at the University of Montana, I played intramural sports, interned in the athletic department, worked as a resident assistant, participated in a couple different academic clubs, and attended every Griz sporting event I could.

But my freshman year didn’t begin with a residence hall activity or a football game inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Rather, the first event I attended as a college student was a welcome picnic hosted by Catholic Campus Ministries. The gathering took place on a sunny August evening at Christ the King, the parish that serves as the Newman Center at the University of Montana (a Newman Center is a central place for Catholic students at a college to congregate at).

That night was the start of four great years I would spend involved with the ministry. I developed friendships with fellow students who were Catholic, had the pleasure of learning from two influential priests (Father Jim Hogan and Father Jeff Fleming), and met countless parishioners in the Diocese of Helena. There was no doubt I experienced spiritual growth in the Newman Center itself, a space that was connected to Christ the King, conveniently renovated and practically brand new at the time of my arrival. 

I spent a lot of time at the University of Montana Newman Center inside Christ the King Parish in Missoula, Mt.

Okay, enough of my reminiscing. Let’s head back to South Carolina…

In August of 2018, Bishop Robert Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston made a significant move. He assigned Father David Nerbun to be the fulltime Catholic chaplain at Coastal Carolina University. Just the third fulltime priest on a college campus in the state, the assignment was a big deal. I met Fr. David that first month during an event on Prince Lawn and was immediately impressed by his energy and vision. I knew he would do great things.

Father David Nerbun is doing great things at CCU (Photo courtesy of Father Nerbun’s Facebook page).

It didn’t take long for Father David to prove me right. He immediately started establishing structure and designing programming for the student organization known as the Coastal Catholics. He identified student leaders and empowered them to make a big difference within the group. He built a social media presence and familiarized himself with the tendencies of Generation Z. He made himself visible on campus and attended the social activities of the group. He laid the groundwork for missionaries from FOCUS, a Catholic collegiate outreach group, to arrive at CCU next month to serve our student population throughout the academic year.

Next month, these five FOCUS Missionaries will be on our campus.

Oh yeah, he also became involved in another project as well…

He is spearheading the efforts to build a Newman Center.

Father David Nerbun is leading the charge to build a Newman Center at CCU.

You see, Bishop Guglielmone had made another big move regarding the CCU Catholic community a few years prior to naming Father David our chaplain. Realizing the need for a “hub” that Catholic students could call home, the Diocese of Charleston purchased property just a quarter mile from campus at 396 West Cox Ferry Road. A house conveniently sits on the property, a structure that has all the potential in the world to grow young people closer to God.

It is now time to make sure that potential is not wasted.

A campaign is underway to convert what was once a residential home into a Newman Center. The project consists of two phases, with the first simply focusing on making the space available for students to congregate. A kitchen, dining room, offices, bathrooms, study areas, and storage will be retrofitted within the walls of the structure. Phase two calls for construction beyond them. The space will be expanded with the addition of a chapel and a conference room. The worship space will come “fully loaded” with a confessional and sacristy. A parking lot, Stations of the Cross trail, reflection garden, and sports field will be added outside.

A look at the property at 396 West Cox Ferry Road in January 2019. Work has already been done by volunteers to beautify the outside area and work has started inside. But now is the time to get serious with the heavy lifting as we tackle phase one and phase two.

The campaign is ambitious but key pieces are in place. Strong leadership, a solid plan, dedicated prayer, and undeniable enthusiasm serve as the backbone of the project. But, as with any major construction endeavor, funding is part of the equation. The first phase will cost around $250K-$300K while the second phase will run around $500K. With the Diocese of Charleston already lending a big hand with the purchase of the property and other aid, the opportunity rests with our local community of area Catholics to fund the next stages.

The sign was installed at the property last week and a campaign video was released.

Trust me, the money raised will address a crucial need. The aim of the campaign is not to build a luxurious building with all the bells and whistles. Rather, it is to build a suitable space where students can attend mass, go to confession, and grow in their faith. Currently, Coastal Catholic services are held at Lackey Chapel, an interdenominational structure, and many events/group meetings are held in the Lib Jackson Student Union. Although these facilities allow the group to be functional, scheduling is difficult when over 180 other student organizations are vying for the same space.

The Coastal Catholics Newman Student Center won’t be an architectural marvel, but it will fill a real need and allow for the Lord’s work to be done.

My appeal tonight is to the people like me––the ones who benefitted from a Newman Center during their years as a college student. We know the unmistakable blessing it was to have a 24/7 resource that would energize and re-enforce our faith whenever we walked through the doors. Many of us had some of our best and most important college moments in the Newman Center at whatever university we attended. Now is the chance to help provide this experience to others. If this strikes a chord with you, click here.

If you had an impactful experience at your college’s Newman Center, consider helping these students get one of their own at Coastal Carolina University (photo courtesy of Father David Nerbun).

With or without a building, nothing can take my admiration away from the Coastal Catholics. Those part of the organization are on fire to practice their faith and to pull others toward discovering their own. Please pray for Father David and the students he is having an impact on. Don’t Blink.

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