By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 25, 2019
ATLANTA—Natalie Standard is the type of leader who doesn’t talk, doesn’t brag. She just does.
Starting from a young age, she has not stopped engaging with her peers and her church at St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro. When she went off to Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, she joined other Christian athletes to serve others and find a balance between sports and faith.
Father John Koziol, pastor of St. Philip Benizi Church, nominated Standard. He called her a key member of the parish.
“She does what she says she will do, she loves others, she listens, and she lives her faith,” he wrote. “Natalie was someone I could always count on when I asked for help.”
For her faith-filled efforts, Standard received the 2019 Msgr. Edward Branch Young Adult Award. The award is named for the retired Lyke House Catholic Center director.
What is your connection to St. Philip Benizi and your college faith community?
I attended St. Philip Benizi parish since the age of four and I believe that this church community has played an important role in shaping me as a person of faith. The St. Philip Benizi community became a second family to me, especially in high school, when I had the opportunity to participate and even help lead the youth group. Without this experience, I would not have the faith I do today or be the leader I am today. In my college faith community, I have again found a family which is vital since I am attending college far from home. Through organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on campus, I have the opportunity to make friendships centered on a mutual love for Jesus. Meeting new people in this way has allowed me to grow increasingly in my faith.
Service and leadership are intertwined with your faith life. What do you enjoy about it?
I love that leadership in the name of Christ does not mean I have to have all of the answers, rather it means that I am bold enough to walk with someone as we both dive deeper into our faith. I love how through both service and leadership that is centered on Christ, I often find that I am not only leading and serving but also being led and served.
What would you say to church leaders to help explain your college-age peers who have left the church? And what would you say to Catholics who have walked away from the church about the faith?
College is a time for learning about yourself especially since it is most students first time living away from home without parents bringing them to church or reminding them what they should be doing. People often leave the church during college because they are trying to find out what faith means to them. This can mean that a person will step away from the church or visit new churches, not to rebel or go against the faith they were raised in, but as a way to see new ways to love and worship Jesus and discover how they can best serve Jesus. I would say to those who have walked away from the church that they should not forget the Catholic Church or their faith. A person can have faith without going to church; a church is just a building. The community that being part of a church provides, however, can help you to grow in your faith with other people who are there to support you and keep you accountable. If you have left the church, I encourage you to find a church community where you feel at home, a place where you feel Christ’s presence alive, and allow this community to walk with you through whatever challenges you face.
How else does Catholicism impact your life?
Catholicism has provided the base for the faith I have today. Growing up in the Catholic Church and attending Catholic schools taught me how to be a leader and to stand out in a world that tries to cover up the name of Jesus.
What is a message of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King that influences you and shapes your priorities?
I admire not a specific message of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King but the way in which he made his stands against injustice. Dr. King believed in peaceful protests and advocacy. Using peaceful means to solve conflict is definitely a priority in my life. I believe that seeking a resolution for conflict without being driven by peace will only result in conflicts worsening.