In the work of evangelization, we rarely know where the seeds we’ve sown might take fruit. Today, we’re thrilled to to share with you one such story. Nick Chancey, a native of Ripley, WV, had a complete awakening of faith after watching the CATHOLICISM series. From there, he graduated from Marshall University with a BA in History in 2015. After spending a year as a Missionary-Intern for the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston, he now serves as a Campus Minister in Charleston, WV. Read his full testimony below. Enjoy!
Throughout most of my life I have identified as agnostic. I grew up in Ripley, West Virginia, where most people were either Methodist or Baptist. My family were very spiritual, but extremely skeptical of organized religion. We were outliers in that sense, living in the Bible Belt. I can recall members of local churches knocking on our door, and my father being all too willing to tell them what he thought of them. I had a fleeting interest in Christianity as a child but it quickly went away as I grew up. Many people in our community believed the Earth was 6,000 years old…how absurd! There was no way that I could be a part of that nonsense. These people don’t even accept science, I often thought.
I was in every sense of the word a “none” as I came into my freshman year at Marshall University in 2010. At that point I had absolutely no interest in Christianity or any religion for that matter. People would ask occasionally about my religion and my responses were always the same. “Is there a God? Maybe. I don’t know. And I don’t really care.” All that mattered to me was my family, friends, and school…usually in that order. I didn’t have time to think about God’s existence.
During my sophomore year I became an RA and made many new friends. One of these friends invited me to the bi-annual “Midnight Pancake Breakfast”. The thought of going excited me until I learned that it was being hosted at the Marshall Catholic Newman Center. I was at best skeptical of the invitation but I finally accepted. To my utter astonishment that event was nothing like I had predicted. No one told me I was going to hell. No one had asked me if I’d been saved. In fact, religion was never really discussed. Instead I was greeted by some of the kindest, gentlest, funniest people I had ever met. “What is this place?” I remember thinking, “and can I come back?”
It so happened that I indeed could come back. Every week a home cooked dinner was served at the Newman Center, and this vibrant community was always in attendance. So without hesitation I came back every week for those dinners, but even more so for the fellowship. This was a place that I could come and share my life with others over a good meal. I had no intentions of joining the Church. That would be pretty extreme, or so I thought. But after two years of attending these dinners I became a true part of the Newman Center family. So much so that at the end of one spring semester the wild thought occurred to me – maybe I should consider the Catholic Church. These people were all intelligent and extremely kind. They must be onto something. It can’t hurt to just look into it, right?
That summer I began what would become an amazing journey. I had expressed to a friend my interest in Catholicism and she connected me with a polish family in rural Ohio. I remember walking into their house and seeing so many beautiful images on their walls, ranging from the different Saints to different depictions of Mary. We spoke at length about the Church and after dinner I was shown the first episode of a series called CATHOLICISM. “That’s a pretty straightforward name”, I remember thinking. As we watched together, I was introduced to Jesus Christ in a way that no one had ever presented Him to me before. Of course, I knew the basics, born in a manger, died for our sins and so on. But this man, this priest, Robert Barron, told me the story of someone quite unsettling. This wasn’t the hippie figure I had come to know. This was a man who left his followers amazed and afraid. This man, I learned, was in fact different from the other religious figures of the world. For fifty minutes I sat and watched completely enthralled.
Afterward the family allowed me to borrow the rest of the series. I took it home and within a week I had watched every episode from beginning to end. I remember after I finished the final episode sitting down in and realizing how much sense this whole thing makes. The laundry list of reservations I had about the Catholic Church had all been checked off. What now? What does this mean? “I have to watch it again”, I thought. And so, I did, and had convinced my mom to join me this time. Surely there was something that didn’t make sense, something that I had missed. She too was watching in utter fascination. Finally, I came to a somewhat frightening conclusion. This series revealed to me the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church. I now must become Catholic.
And with that my world began to change. For the first time in my life I was praying to God for answers. I was thanking him for all the blessings in my life that were now so much more evident. I was seeing and recognizing the beauty of the world around me, as well as the people so wonderfully made in his image and likeness. I was legitimately a happier person. My heart was set on fire. I had to share this with the world. After finishing the series, I discovered the Word on Fire website and YouTube channel. I became absolutely hooked on Robert Barron’s videos and podcasts. I can’t express how much I learned about the church, and myself, just from watching his YouTube channel.
I returned that fall semester ready to share this newfound truth with the world. I entered the RCIA program and by that spring I was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church. I will never forget seeing all my family together inside of St. Joseph’s Church. By this time my parents had not only accepted my becoming Catholic, but they too had taken an interest. They got their own copy of the CATHOLICISM series and went through a similar journey. After nearly three years, and a lengthy annulment process from a previous marriage, my parents will finally be entering the Church later this year.
I am now a Campus Minister myself, working with college students and making our own weekly dinners. The Catholicism Series sits distinctly on the shelf at our center. In fact, one of my students, after being exposed to the beauty of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Wheeling, now wants to become Catholic himself. We are 4 episodes into the series and after each one he always says, “I feel like I’m really learning about Christianity for the first time.” I see in him what I saw in myself, a man set on fire by the Holy Spirit. I am beyond blessed by Bishop Barron’s work with Word on Fire. I don’t know where I’d be without him and his ministry.