The 2013 floods were devastating for Boulder. Many residents were overwhelmed by destroyed properties. Among them was the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center, the Catholic Hub of the University of Colorado-Boulder. However, reconstructing their property opened new avenues for evangelization. Specifically, the converted part of their student center into a coffee shop.
“We weren’t quite sure how it was going to work, but ever since we opened it, there have been more and more people coming in. They just come in off thestreet,” employee Emma Konizeski said.
Drogo’s coffee shop opened on Aug. 24, the first day of classes at CU-Boulder. Pastor Father Peter Mussett said the coffee shop helps them reach different populations of students.
“The first population that we think about are the students who are here, the community that’s established, and being able to foster and encourage those who are with us. For them, it’s just been phenomenal,” Father Mussett said.
Drogo’s location in the middle of Greek Row allows them to reach other students that they may not have contact with. Konizeski was a freshman last year, and said she knew just about everyone in the Catholic community. Now that she works at Drogo’s, she sees new faces in the building almost every day.
“We have a lot of people who are not even associated with the Church come in. They just hang out and get some coffee,” Konizeski said.
This is exactly what Father Mussett hoped would happen. He said that their ability to offer high quality, low cost products will hopefully allow them to become popular with students of all backgrounds.
“Because we value people and the community and the evangelical life more than we value profits, we can offer it cheaper than everyone else. People are discovering that,” Father Musett said. “Even Jesus used free food.”
Konizeski said the students work together to make sure newcomers feel welcomed at Drogo’s, and with the Catholic community as a whole.
“Usually if someone is new here, one of the regulars is going to go up to them and ask them their name, what they’re studying, and introduce themselves so they have a reason to come back and hang out with them,” she said.
Drogo’s serves local Ozo coffee, and was decorated by a local interior designer. It contains a mix of tables, sofas, counters and even a small performing space for acoustic artists. Konizeski said that students find the space welcoming and pleasant.
“One of my roommates actually brings in a bunch of people all the time. She’ll just invite people to come over and do homework,” Konizeski said.
Father Mussett said this part of why they chose to build a coffee shop, which has traditionally served as a gathering place for intellectuals.
“It’s not a bar, where we’re phasing out of life. We’re actually engaging and becoming awake and aware and having intellectual conversations. This is a place of humanity and intellect,” Father Mussett said.
This is good news for CU-Boulder, which Father Musset described as a “port city” of cultures and future leaders. He said a coffee shop is a real, human, communal way for them to encounter the Church.
“[There are] a lot of people who are looking for life and happiness in the things of the world, that just can’t offer it. Here, what we’re able to do is offer real life. When people tag in, they just come alive,” Father Mussett said. “Statistically, about 75% of Catholics leave their faith in college. What we’re doing in campus ministry is at the very forefront of the new evangelization, which is all about new methods, ardor and zeal.”
“There’s nothing more exciting than watching people come alive in the Gospel,” Father Mussett said.