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Napa Legal Institute founded to help Catholic nonprofits and organizations flourish

“Religious freedom can no longer be assumed, it must be actively defended,” says Joshua Holdenried, executive director of NLI. “For this reason, NLI stands ready to protect and advance the missions of Catholic culture-building organizations.”

(Image: Thomas Drouault |

On February 5th, the Napa Institute announced the formation of the Napa Legal Institute (NLI) to assist Catholic individuals and organizations with non-litigation legal guidance, counsel, professional service support, and representation. The NLI has expertise in corporate structure, governance, and tax and accounting, filling a “void in the current landscape providing pro-bono or subsidized support for religious organizations based on need.”

Joshua Holdenried, Executive Director of Napa Legal Institute.

Tim Busch, chairman of the Napa Legal Institute and the Napa Institute, explained in a press release that while many legal networks exist to help such individuals and organizations who find themselves in court, “we observed a dearth of coverage in foundational areas that can help nonprofits and organizations flourish—from legal structure to governance to proper accounting.”

Joshua Holdenried, formerly of The Heritage Foundation, will serve as NLI’s executive director. He is a former congressional staffer and an inaugural member of the Public Interest Fellowship, a two-year program designed to equip and train young professionals for leadership in the political and cultural life of the United States.

CWR: What is your educational and professional background?

Joshua Holdenried: I’ve been interested in history, public policy, and political thought for most of my life. In college, I founded an Alexander Hamilton Society chapter, a nation-wide membership organization focused on national security issues. The experiences and contacts I made through AHS led me to Washington D.C., where I moved to accept a missile defense internship with The Heritage Foundation, a public policy think tank.

After Heritage, I accepted my next internship with the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then a full-time role as a congressional staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives. I spent a couple of years on Capitol Hill before joining the Public Interest Fellowship, which develops young professionals for leadership in the political and cultural life of the United States. As a fellow, I worked on a lot of different projects that exposed me to diverse research areas, ranging from American statecraft to state-by-state campus free speech legislation. In short, I quickly learned how to be flexible across a wide spectrum of needs.

CWR: How does this background assist you in this new role?

Holdenried: As executive director, I spend a lot of my time building relationships, developing our brand, and handling the various organizational needs that come with a startup organization.

My ability to do so stems from the professional flexibility and finesse I learned as a Public Interest Fellow, and my hands-on experience in policy promotion and strategic partnerships on behalf of a major public policy organization (Heritage). I essentially rely on my soft skills in order to organize and engage professionals with hard skills.

CWR: You are a convert to the Catholicism. How did you make your way to the Catholic Church?

Holdenried:  I grew up in a household that blended various denominations of Protestantism together. I say blended because I moved around so much growing up that church attendance was usually dependent on geography. I attended Lutheran school as a child in California while going to a mega church on Sundays; went to Presbyterian and Methodist services that were close to my home in Tennessee; and various other churches over the years with no real measure of consistency.

By the time I got to college, I explored a few Baptist churches before losing interest altogether. I’m not sure “agnostic” is the right word, but by the time I graduated school and left for Washington, faith was hardly on my mind.

After a few years I began to feel directionless. I decided to do a personal search to see if I should abandon or renew what nominal faith I had left. I began with the Catholic Church, since it was close to where I lived. After calling the rectory to learn more, I was invited to sit in on an RCIA class. One class became a second, and then a third, and a fourth, and so on. But it was when I attended my first Mass, alone and on my own volition, that I suddenly realized I was encountering the Truth.

CWR: How did you come to be executive director of NLI?

Holdenried:  The Napa team had been interested in establishing a presence on the East Coast for some time, which is why I was hired to establish an office in Washington D.C. My focus also includes New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and other areas where many Catholic professionals live and work. Having lived and worked in D.C. for over half a decade, I’m able to add to NLI and Napa Institute’s strategic network through my on-the-ground experience. But it was by the grace of God that I was approached for this position, where I get to integrate my faith with my professional work.

CWR: Why there is a need for NLI?

Holdenried:  The Napa Institute, our sister organization, was founded nearly a decade ago to equip and prepare Catholics for the “Next America,” a term coined by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to describe a culture of growing secularization and hostility towards religion, undermining the ability of Catholics to practice their faith.

One needs to look no further than some of the recent Supreme Court battles over the last few years to recognize that this “Next America” is now here. Religious freedom can no longer be assumed, it must be actively defended.

For this reason, NLI stands ready to protect and advance the missions of Catholic culture-building organizations. We want to help Catholic NGOs become corporately sophisticated and legally prepared to operate in an America where religious belief is no longer the assumed cultural fabric that binds us together.

In short, Catholic leaders need to be proactive, not reactive towards the shifting ground beneath their feet.

CWR: Do you have any clients yet? What type of individuals/organizations would be good clients for you?

Holdenried: We aren’t taking any clients currently. In this initial stage of our apostolate, we are operating as an educational institute for spiritual entrepreneurs trying to start new nonprofits or take existing ones to the next level.

As a result, we plan to publish white papers, webinars, and seminars that will better equip and prepare nonprofit leaders to consult outside counsel and operate efficiently in the 21st century. Topics we’re interested in addressing include corporate governance and structure, entity formation, tax exemption, IRS compliance, and other non-litigation legal and financial issues.

CWR: Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa is ecclesiastical advisor to NLI.  What will he be doing for NLI, and why was he chosen for this role?

Holdenried: Bishop Vasa has been a friend and advisor to the Napa family for some time, which is why he was chosen to advise our apostolate. He was already a member of Napa Institute’s ecclesiastical advisory board. We will rely on his Excellency to ensure our work and partnerships are in alignment with the Magisterium of the Church.

CWR: What role will Tim Busch and his firm be playing in NLI?

Holdenried: Tim Busch is Chairman of Napa Legal Institute, which is a separate entity from the Busch Firm. Tim’s entrepreneurial vision and years of business and legal experience are integral to our success as we begin our new apostolate. The quality alone of NLI’s board is a testament to Tim’s ability inspire, recruit, lead others towards a shared vision.

CWR: What support or assistance is important to your work at NLI?

Holdenried: We are actively building NLI’s professional network. If you have legal and financial skills (or know of friends and family who do) and are looking for ways to support Catholic NGOs, please email us at

Relatedly, if you are leading or working for a Catholic NGO and want to learn more about what we’re doing that could support your mission, please email us as well.

CWR: What else would you like to share about NLI?

Holdenried: We will officially launch our “Napa Legal League,” this summer, NLI’s official network of attorneys and financial professionals. We encourage interested professionals to join our mailing list by visiting our website and entering their information, or email us at to learn more.

NLI’s Napa Legal League will have two purposes: 1) To give Catholic lawyers and financial professionals opportunities to volunteer their time and services to Catholic nonprofits in need of assistance, and 2) To create a sense of solidarity for Catholics active in the legal and financial community by offering opportunities for spiritual direction, fellowship, and education.

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About Jim Graves 225 Articles
Jim Graves is a Catholic writer living in Newport Beach, California.

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