Tim Busch’s Napa Institute has a mission to catechize through its various programs . . .
For four days every July, Catholic leaders gather in California’s Napa Valley to learn from theologians, bishops, philosophers and others how to live and defend their faith in a world that is increasingly hostile to religious belief and practice.
The Napa Institute is the brainchild of Orange County Legate Tim Busch, who was inspired by the annual Legatus Summit as well as by the secular Aspen and Vail Leadership institutes.
Busch, CEO of Pacific Hospitality Group and co-founder of Busch & Caspino, began envisioning the Napa Institute, after a 2006 Legatus conference at his Meritage Resort in Napa.
Connect and learn
Busch’s plan was to create a place where Catholic lay and ordained leaders could connect with each other and learn about new and growing movements in the Church. In an atmosphere enhanced by opportunities for prayer, Mass, devotions and Eucharistic adoration, participants would listen to academically trained speakers whose presentations would be published after each conference.
Response to the idea was positive from day one, Busch said, and has grown in intensity, as reflected by the attendance and requests from those who want to speak at the event.
“It’s a great joy to bring all of these people together,” Busch said. “I saw it as an opportunity to develop an experience that I personally would enjoy. I wanted something really engaging that makes faith not only fun but passionate to be involved with.”
The institute’s motto is “Equipping Catholics in the Next America,” a phrase drawn from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput’s article “Catholics and the Next America.” He spoke at the 2012 Napa Institute and will return this year.
In the article, the he warns Catholics about a growing trend toward secularization in American culture, one in which they face a dwindling relevance that threatens their ability to be heard.
“The ‘next America,’” he writes, “has been in its chrysalis for a long time. Whether people will be happy when it fully emerges remains to be seen. But the future is not predestined. We create it with our choices. And the most important choice we can make is both terribly simple and terribly hard: to actually live what the Church teaches, to win the hearts of others by our witness and to renew the soul of our country with the courage of our own Christian faith and integrity. There is no more revolutionary act.”
Busch said the Napa Institute seeks to provide courage and an example to Catholic leaders to help them deal with the challenges of life in an America where faith is no longer encouraged in the public square. The effort is rooted, he said, in what he has learned through his 25 years in Legatus — and from Legatus founder Tom Monaghan, whom he considers a mentor.
“We’re trying to stop the flow of faith from the public square and put it back in the public square and business,” said Busch, who has been instrumental in founding 10 of Legatus’ 79 chapters.
Faith and reason
Legate Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press and a Napa Institute board member, said the conference has shown people that the Catholic faith has something to say regarding the modern world and contemporary scene.
He credits Busch with generating enthusiasm for the project when it started. “People see Tim as a solid Catholic leader who is quite a bridgebuilder.”
Board member Liz Yore said the institute exudes a confidence in Catholicism. “That, for me, is an example of how each of us as Catholics needs to incorporate our faith in a real, substantive way into our work and lives.”
Each year, the Napa Institute focuses on three themes, one of which is always faith and reason. This year, the other two will be economic justice and faith and beauty. Busch said economic justice is a timely topic in light of what Pope Francis has been saying on the subject, although speakers also will address it from the perspective of the Bible and what the Church has taught through the centuries.
The institute —which drew 235 attendees last year — also has a component for young leaders under 40. And this year it will offer a special panel on faith and the feminine genius as articulated by St. John Paul II.
“It’s going to be fun and interesting to see what comes out of it,” said Yore, who will moderate the panel. “My sense of the Napa Institute is that initiatives come out of it, things start happening, and people start working together on projects that they’re exposed to or create as a result of the institute.”
In addition to the summer conference in Napa, the institute holds an annual pilgrimage and other off-site events. This year’s events also include a conference on free markets and Catholic social teaching, and a symposium on Christians in the Middle East.
Kevin Hand, a member of Legatus’ Hollywood Chapter, has attended all three Napa conferences and plans to be at this year’s July 24-27 event. The institute, he said, has helped him grow spiritually by giving him a better understanding of the Church’s teachings. He cited in particular his participation in the institute’s 2013 pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
“It was such a gift from God,” he said, adding that it helped him better understand the perspective of migrating people from all over the world. “It’s fascinating how the Church has assisted in taking care of them.”
Yore said she finds the institute to be a perfect blend of the intellectual, spiritual and social. In addition to having a wide range of choices for Mass and prayer, Yore said she most enjoys the exchanges with speakers and other participants in the smaller breakout sessions. The way the institute is set up, she said, attendees have an opportunity to meet almost everyone who is there.
“That’s unusual because I’ve been involved in lots of conferences where you don’t have that sense of meeting the whole group of people and really discussing in depth the issues presented at the conference,” she explained. “It’s very stimulating on a lot of different levels and I always feel like I’m coming home refreshed, with a new set of friends as well as Catholic compatriots.”
Brumley said he believes the institute is influencing people who might not be reached through other avenues.
“They may be involved in the academic world or the creative cultural world like filmmaking, screenwriting or poetry and have a kind of leadership role in their universe, but they don’t find places to connect and to have this kind of high-level intellectual, spiritual, cultural engagement in the context of the Church.”
JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.