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.

TCBY Thursday Rundown

It is with distinct pleasure that I am back to write another Thursday Rundown. Sit back and relax because five random topics are coming your way…

A Special #NationalSiblingsDay Nod – Yesterday was National Siblings Day. Out of the million different social media tributes I saw, one stood out. My sister took to Facebook to do a little more than just recognize her two incredibly cool brothers. Besides the photo she posted of the three of us, she published an additional image as well. This particular photo was of Miranda with my wife. To see my sister embrace Sidney not just as a sister-in-law, but as a sibling, was really sweet. I am proud of their special relationship!

My sister considers Sidney a sibling.

An Impactful Priest – As I have written about before, Catholic priests hardly have lifetime assignments at parishes. Bishops move them around their respective dioceses quite frequently. Even though change is inevitable, it is strange to think about what the Catholic Campus Ministries program at the University of Montana will be like after July 1. Father Jeff Fleming has served as the pastor at Missoula’s Christ the King Parish, the University of Montana Newman Center, for 12 years. As a student, I found comfort and spiritual growth within the CCM program, with much of it due to Fr. Jeff’s spiritual direction. Taking over for a priest who was beloved for many years at Christ the King, Fr. Jeff had big shoes to fill when he arrived my sophomore year. He exceeded expectations and molded the program with his own personal touch. My experience with CCM at UM is a big reason why I am so passionate about the efforts being undertaken at Coastal Carolina to build our own Newman Center. Thank you, Fr. Jeff, for impacting so many college students during your time in Missoula. Best of luck with your new assignment!

Fr. Jeff has had such a positive impact on University of Montana students and the Missoula community in general (photo courtesy of my good friend Kristina Dolan).

2-For-1 – The Da Vinci-esque artwork continues to come home with Sloan. This evening, she surprised me with a “P”enguin. Another development that happened tonight was a discovery I made at Food Lion. I stopped by the supermarket after work to pick up almond milk for Sloan. Also on the grocery list was a request from my wife to find her something sweet. This new peanut M&M bar looked pretty interesting! Will let everyone know how it is after Sid gives it a try.

Sloan with her penguin artwork on the left and on the right is the new M&M candy bar I found at Food Lion.

Nabisco – Time to jump from #NationalSiblingsDay to #NationalPetDay! Although I have no desire to have a pet, I am a cat guy. I enjoy how they are social, intelligent animals. Growing up, my family had a cat named Nabisco. She lived from the time I was in elementary school to several years after I started my professional career. She was literally the best cat in the world! I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but I actually wrote a blog post in her memory about six years ago. On this National Pet Day, my heart is with Nabisco!

I had Nabisco in my life from the time I was just a little kid until September of 2013.

Defunct Restaurants – The most recent clickbait article that duped me into following the link was a list of casual restaurants that are now struggling or no longer with us. I had an entertaining time browsing through the 26 chains that were listed. The ones I was most nostalgic about? TCBY, Tony Roma’s, and Blimpie! All three of those were once located within walking distance of my childhood house. In fact, Tony Roma’s was the first “sit-down” restaurant I ate at with friends (no adults present). If you have time, take a stroll down memory lane by checking out the list.

There used to be a TCBY that shared space with a gas station right next to my house growing up.


How did I do tonight? Thanks for your readership and I will check back in on Monday. Have a great start to your Holy Week. Don’t Blink.