McCormick nourished students’ faith at Coastal Carolina

CONWAY — Since the fall of 1995, regular Sunday Masses have been held on the campus of Coastal Carolina University and Tim McCormick has been there for all but three. But this fall, the students will have to worship without him.

After 10 years of organizing the weekly liturgies for students, McCormick, the director of enrollment planning at the university, is stepping aside.

“I have some things going on in my family that I really need to pay attention to,” he told The Catholic Miscellany in a recent interview.

McCormick said he has two children in college and a son who is a high school student and heavily involved in sports, especially soccer. It’s time, he said, to focus on commitments to his wife and children and to pass the mantle of campus ministry on to someone else.

McCormick initiated the Masses after attending a Cursillo weekend in 1995. The experience led him to explore what he could do to foster the Catholic faith in his daily work environment.

He said he checked statistics on Coastal students and discovered that at that time about 26 percent identified themselves as Roman Catholic. Many came from the mid-Atlantic region, New England and the Northeast, and were bringing their Catholic faith to a campus that did not have a consistently active Catholic ministry.

Coastal Carolina University sits just off busy U.S. Highway 501, less than 10 miles from the tourist bustle of the Grand Strand. Extremely active and growing parishes were nearby along the Grand Strand, including St. James in Conway, St. Michael in Garden City, and his own parish, St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach. But no consistent Catholic presence was established on the college campus. Protestant denominations and evangelical student groups were well represented, and McCormick decided to find a way to help Catholic students express their faith at school.

In the fall of 1995, McCormick worked and prayed with priests and deacons in the Conway area to determine the best way to reach out to the Catholics on campus.

“We decided that the best way to bring kids together was through liturgies,” he said.

Posters went up around campus advertising the weekly Masses, which would be held in the university’s admissions building. The first Masses attracted a few dozen people, and within a few years the weekly services were regularly attracting 95 to 100 students, staff members and faculty from the Coastal campus and the surrounding area. Some students brought friends of other faiths to the Masses to help them learn about Catholicism.

McCormick organized a network of seven to 17 priests around the Grand Strand and Pee Dee areas whom he could call on to visit the campus and celebrate Mass. Each priest usually committed to two Sundays a semester.

He said some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the weekly Mass ministry were the late Msgr. Thomas Duffy and Msgr. Joseph Roth, who at the time was serving as pastor at St. Andrew.

Besides the Masses, McCormick worked with students to organize events on campus that taught the basic tenets of Catholicism. These events were directed at students of other faiths and addressed crucial issues and church teachings, such as the death penalty and right-to-life issues.

Looking back at the students he met and worshiped with over the past decade, McCormick said he is proud of those he was able to help with their faith commitments. He also cites the fact that three students who were not Catholics joined the church after attending the Masses. He said that there were at least three couples who met and married through the weekly ministry.

McCormick can also be proud of his attendance record as a liturgy organizer on campus.

“Out of 300 Masses, I missed three,” he said.

The Newman Club and Catholic ministry will continue to have a presence at Coastal Carolina University. McCormick said he thinks some of the students, especially this year’s seniors, will be able to carry on the tradition in his absence, but he says he is also praying for another adult from the college community to step forward.

In the meantime, McCormick said he will nurture his own faith and will commit himself to family activities.

“I’m going to miss sharing the faith with kids,” McCormick said. “When you develop a group like this, you really lay it all out there from a faith perspective. My biggest hope is that the ministry I’ve led has helped provide the students with a vehicle to use to develop their faith even further.”