| By Teresa Peterson

Coach Becomes Catholic with Support from His Students

Juston Feist is a Physical Education (PE) Coach and Athletic Director who helps students develop good sportsmanship and to be Christ-like on and off the field.

However, shortly after he was hired as Nativity Catholic School’s PE Coach and Athletic Director in 2021, he started to feel hypocritical because he wasn’t really practicing what he preached.

“Who am I to tell the children to follow Christ when I myself am not Catholic?” said Feist.

As a teacher at Nativity, he started to participate in the Mass with students every Wednesday, prayed regularly with the students, and started to view life through the lens of faith. But he knew something was missing from his life.

Growing up in Brandon, he would attend Mass at Nativity Parish on major holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, but he had never been baptized. His grandparents, however, were devout Catholics and faithfully participated in the Mass every Sunday and on weekdays, too. It turns out, his grandparents greatly influenced who Juston Feist would become.

“My grandfather taught PE for 54 years in Hillsborough County. He has always been my role model,” said Feist who is proud to be following in his footsteps.

“My grandmother was my number one person in the world,” added Feist. “She was so caring, loving and the most honest person I've ever been around. She always had a big hug waiting for you. But she was also the first one to let you know when you messed up and what you could do to fix it. Never harping on me too hard or too much, but just wanting me to grow and get better,” said Feist.

His grandmother died on January 24, 2016, and prior to that, she made it known how important her faith was to her.

“It was my grandmother's dying wish that all of her grandchildren become Catholic,” said Feist.

In 2022, one year after starting at Nativity, he was ready to begin the process of becoming Catholic and enrolled in the parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program. 

“I went through the process to serve the Body of Christ and will continue to do so and hope to share my story and continue to inspire students and let them know it’s never too late to achieve anything, especially when you put your faith in Jesus,” Feist recalled.

In April of 2023, at the Easter Vigil Mass, he received the three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. In 2023, he also participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time.

“I definitely felt a sense of peace afterwards,” said Feist.

His students cheered him on throughout the entire process.

“They were very encouraging,” said Feist. “My younger and older students saw the sacrifices I made throughout this process and provided me with words of encouragement, gifts, cards, and their own testimonies along the way.”

He has been married for two years and he has a baby daughter on the way. His wife is also Catholic, and she is a doctor.

Throughout this process, Feist says that God has been helping him to become more patient and trust in God’s time.

“God’s timing is perfect. If you look at what's happened to me within the last two and a half years since I've been here, I would be the first one to say His timing is perfect,” said Feist.

Now that he is living the Catholic faith and receiving the sacraments as his grandmother hoped, he reflected on what she would say now from heaven.

“I know she's smiling. But she's also probably getting ready to hit me on the back of the head and say, ‘what took so long?’” Feist shared.

Becoming Catholic

Are you interested in becoming Catholic or know someone who is?

If so, the first step is to find the parish closest to you and share your interest in becoming Catholic. To find a parish in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, visit parishnearme.org.