Cardinal Newman teens make mosaic for Newman Center

Some of the students from Angel Allen’s art class at Cardinal Newman School in Columbia stand with the mosaic they are creating of St. John Newman. It will hang in the future Newman Center at Coastal Carolina University in Conway. (Provided)

CONWAY—Father David Nerbun graduated from Cardinal Newman School in Columbia back in 2001. 

Nineteen years later, art students at his alma mater are working on a mosaic of the school’s namesake, St. John Henry Newman. It will hang in the future Newman Center he is working to open at Coastal Carolina University, where he serves as chaplain. 

Father Nerbun, who also is priest-in-residence at St. James Church in Conway, is the first full-time Catholic chaplain at the Conway school. In early 2019, he began efforts to establish a Newman Center there, a central location for Catholic ministry on a non-Catholic campus. Workers have since been retrofitting a house off West Cox Ferry Road that was sold to the Diocese of Charleston. Fundraising and construction on the project are still ongoing. 

The priest wanted a piece of sacred art for the new building, so he reached out to Angel Allen, a Columbia mosaic artist who has creations on display at churches and other spaces around the diocese. She also teaches art at Cardinal Newman. 

“We agreed that her creating a mosaic of St. Newman with her art class was Spirit-guided and would be an amazing way to link my alma mater and the university,” Father Nerbun said. “It also has helped us to begin forging our campus community’s identity around a saint.” 

Allen said students in her art club have been meeting at least once a week to work on the mosaic for the past several months, using leftover supplies she brought in from other projects she has done.  She had hoped they would complete it in March and then be able to install it after spring break. 

Like everything else at the school, those plans were brought to a halt when the coronavirus crisis erupted earlier this month. 

The mosaic sits unfinished in an empty art classroom at the school for now, and Allen is not sure when the students will be able to begin work on it again. When they do, however, Father Nerbun said they will be working toward giving Coastal Carolina’s Catholic students a beautiful piece of art and reminder of their Catholic identity.