If at any point in his life (even up until September of 2016), you had told Andrew Natali that he would be living in Ave Maria, FL, with an MA in Theology, working as the Chief Business Developer for a coffee roastery, he would have laughed. But then again, as Andrew has often found, God’s providence often works itself out in strange and surprising ways.
The story begins back in 2007. Andrew began his college career at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was able to fulfill a lifelong goal of swimming at the Division I collegiate level. However, despite achieving success in academics and the pool, in the spring of 2007 he found himself sitting in his dorm room feeling unhappy and unfulfilled. “I felt like college was supposed to be a time when I really grew as a person and broadened my thinking, and I just didn’t find I was being challenged to do that where I was or in the classes I was taking.”
As he pondered what to do, he felt continually prodded to check out a small Catholic school his dad had come across: the University of Dallas. Though he had applied to UD before to appease his mother, Andrew had never actually given much thought to it. One sleepless night, he went on to the UD website and found a promo video independently made by some of the students. After watching it, he felt convicted that UD was where God wanted him to go. And so, Andrew reapplied with the prayer that if he received the right scholarship, he would go. The scholarship came, and without ever having visited the school, Andrew hung up his suit and goggles and transferred.
While attending UD, Andrew grew increasingly convicted in his desire to search for the truth and to share his faith. “My very first class was Philosophy and the Ethical Life at 8am on a Monday morning. Dr. Frank started talking about Plato’s Republic and, I can honestly say I felt my heart soar in a way it never had before.”
Over the Christmas break of his “second” freshman year, he met a young priest from his home diocese who ran an outdoor adventure youth ministry program called Catholic Youth Expeditions. When he asked the priest what he should do with his first summer without swimming, the priest suggested he join the staff of CYE. “I had never been camping before, but I just thought, hey, why not?” So, for the summer of 2008, Andrew and 10 other staff members led expedition camping retreats around Wisconsin for youth and young adult groups.
That same summer included a pilgrimage to the International Eucharistic Congress and Andrew found himself sitting on a bus packed with people, food, tents, and various supplies, travelling from Appleton, Wisconsin to Quebec, Canada. Also on the trip, was Brad Fassbender. The two met and shared some conversations during the trip, but afterwards both went their separate ways.
Andrew went on to complete his BA in Philosophy at the University of Dallas in 2011, during which time he felt called to enter the seminary and discern the priesthood. He attended Mundelein Seminary for a year before discerning out in 2012. “I think one of the scariest moments of my life was deciding to leave the seminary, and then suddenly realizing I didn’t have a backup plan.”
Unsure of what his next step would be, Andrew returned to CYE to participate in their 9 month Missionary Internship program. In the fall of 2012, he and another staff member embarked on a 4-week, cross-country road trip to raise awareness of the Church’s call for the New Evangelization. Part of that trip involved a stop in Ave Maria. While in Ave Maria, Andrew completed a novena (a nine-day prayer) to St. Therese asking for guidance on where God was calling him next. Receiving indications toward both teaching (which he swore he would never do) and graduate school (“I’ve always said I’m NOT an academic”), Andrew found himself somewhat confused and wrote off the novena as a failed attempt to gain some clarity.
However, by the end of his youth ministry stint, there was only one opportunity available to him for moving forward: teaching. Andrew taught high school students for two years, but during that time he continued to feel restless and began thinking he might prefer teaching at the college level.
In the spring of 2015, he therefore decided to apply for graduate school. Of the schools he was accepted to, only one was a viable option: Ave Maria University. Thus, in the fall of 2015, Andrew arrived at Ave as a full time graduate student, thereby fulfilling the novena from years earlier. When asked about it, Andrew laughs saying, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you should always be careful before telling God what you don’t want to do.”
Though he greatly enjoyed his classes at Ave, over the course of his time as a graduate student, Andrew became less and less certain about whether or not Academia was his ultimate destination. He went back and forth on whether to pursue a Ph.D, and for a while it seemed to him that he would finish his degree and go back to teaching at a Catholic High School. Then in the spring of 2016, he was invited to a coffee tasting hosted by an old acquaintance: Brad Fassbender.
Since they had last talked, Brad had gotten married and moved with his family to Ave Maria. As it turned out, that spring Brad was starting Guadalupe Roastery as a way to help out a missionary family living at Guadalupe Gardens, a Catholic mission outside of San Marcos, Nicaragua. Brad suggested the possibility of helping from time to time and Andrew readily agreed. Thus, in the fall of 2016, Andrew became an official Guadalupe Roastery Coffee Roaster.
As business continued to grow, it became increasingly apparent that a full-time employee was going to be needed. Eventually, it became a topic of discussion between Brad and Andrew. “At first, I thought, ‘yeah that would be cool for someone to do.’ Then I thought, ‘that would be cool if I could help.’ Then I thought, ‘Andrew that’s crazy.'” However, as he continued to pray about it, Andrew felt more and more convicted that Academia was not for him, and more and more at peace with the idea of going into business. As he grew more involved the anxiety turned into excitement, until eventually he realized, “This is what I want to do.”
After graduating from Ave Maria University in May 2017, Andrew was offered the position of Chief Business Developer at Guadalupe Roastery. When asked how he feels about his new position, Andrew says this:
“It is definitely scary, and at times I feel woefully unprepared and unqualified. However, I also know from experience that God tends not to care about your qualifications. I don’t have a degree in business, but I do believe in everything this company stands for and wants to accomplish. Ultimately, Guadalupe Roastery is here to serve Christ. The New Evangelization cannot just be about re-energizing organizations and functions within the walls of a church. It’s about allowing the truth of the Gospel to permeate everything we are and do, so that by the way we live our lives we are constantly proposing Christ to the world. We have an incredibly unique opportunity to build a company that is founded on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, that seeks to pay all of its employees a living wage, that promotes the dignity of the family and the human person, that puts business at the service of people instead of putting people at the service of business. In short, we have an incredible opportunity to be a business of the New Evangelization by doing business differently. As best I can tell, God put me here in this place, at this time, with this opportunity, so I’m just going to do the best I can to make it happen. The rest is up to Him.”
Contact Andrew Natali at 920-540-9069 or Brad Fassbender at 239-986-0550