SANTA PAULA, Calif.—It seems an unlikely group of people taking part in religious education classes—among them a state trial judge from Arizona, a tax attorney, a chief executive officer. But they all participate in Catholic summer conferences to learn more about their faith.

“It fires us up,” said Richard Anderson, the trial judge from Arizona who, for the past eight years, has been attending the Thomas Aquinas College great books summer seminar in Santa Paula, Calif. “If we read a particular excerpt from Plato, then that spurs us on to continue to read Plato for the rest of the year, not to mention Thomas Aquinas or whoever we' discussing at the time.”

With several degrees in banking and finance under his belt, Fred Ruopp, chairman and chief executive officer of Chelsea Management Co., attends the summer conferences regularly for a different reason.

“I always wish[ed] I had a solid grounding in the liberal arts,” he said. “The summer conference at Thomas Aquinas College is a way for me to participate in that.”

Summer conferences seem to satisfy a yearning adults have to know more about faith and life, and several Catholic colleges are helping to accommodate them. Many offer programs for adults from all walks of life, including lay people, priests, religious and scholars.

The following is a roundup of several programs offered this summer.

Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Aug. 8-10 will offer “John Paul II and the Renewal of Thomistic Theology Conference,” sponsored by the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria College.

Leading theologians from Rome, Oxford, Scotland, Switzerland and Chicago, as well as scholars and graduate students in theology from Duke University, Catholic University of America and Loyola University, will gather for two days of intense theological reflection on Pope John Paul II's recovery of Thomistic theology for the post-Vatican II Church.

The keynote speaker for this conference will be Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles. Those attending may use campus housing during their visit. For a brochure on the conference visit http://www.aquinas.avemaria.edu/JPIIConference.pdf

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Renewal Ministries of Ann Arbor, Mich., an organization that trains Catholic evangelists, will also sponsor its summer training institute at Ave Maria College. The institute is divided into three schools: the School of Evangelization from July 11-20, which helps participants learn how to spread the Gospel in response to the Pope's call for a New Evangelization; the School of Catholic Bible Study from July 20-23, which teaches Catholic understanding of Scripture; and the School of Spirituality: Journey Toward Union with God from July 24-27, which outlines the course of spiritual life.

Among the scheduled presenters are Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries and host of the weekly television program “The Choices We Face”; Sister Ann Shields, whose popular radio show “Food for the Journey” is heard daily throughout the world; Debra Herbeck, a Messianic Jewish Catholic who has taught Bible studies for more than eight years; and Dr. Laurie Manhardt, coauthor of the Come See Catholic Bible Study series.

For more information, visit http://www.renewalministries.net

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Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., will sponsor two great books summer seminars for adults. Session 1 is scheduled for July 18-20 and Session 2 from July 25-27.

Together with Dr. Tom Dillon, president of Thomas Aquinas College, Dean R. Glen Coughlin and tutors of the college, participants discuss and analyze ideas expressed in the great books.

This summer's theme is “War.” Participants will be reading The Life of King Henry V by Shakespeare; “On Learning in War Time,” an essay by C.S. Lewis; and selected questions concerning war from the Summa Theologiae by St. Thomas Aquinas.

For more information contact Jaqueline Slay at (805) 525-4417, ext. 329.

Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, offers several conferences throughout the summer specifically for men, women, religious, Catholic apologists and educators:

May 30 to June 1: “Catholic Women: Transformed by Grace.” Speakers include author Patti Mansfield and Rosalind Moss of EWTN.

June 6-8: “Catholic Men: More Than Conquerors.” Speakers include Alan Keyes, former NFL player and coach Danny Abramowicz and Father Terence Henry, TOR.

June 9-13: “Priests, Deacons and Seminarians: May Your Hope Overflow.” Speakers include Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Benedict Groeschel and Bishop Daniel Conlon of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio.

June 13-15: “Catholic Charismatic: Born in and for the Church.” Speakers include Jesse Romero and Patti Mansfield.

July 8-10: “Religious Sisters: Healing: The Bigger Picture.” Speakers include Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Richard McAlear and Sister Maria Walsh.

July 16-18: “Applied Biblical Studies: A Living Sacrifice: Scripture and the Sacramental Life.” Speakers include Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Edward Sri and Dr. William Bales.

July 18-20: “Defending the Faith (apologetics conference): The Truth and Beauty of Holiness.” Speakers include Scott and Kimberly Hahn, former Pentecostal pastor Alex Jones, Father Benedict Groeschel and Bishop Donald Wuerl of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

July 23-27: “St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators: the Father's Love.” Speakers include Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.; Mary Jo Smith, director of Image of God; and Msgr. Stuart Swetland of the Diocese of Peoria, Ill.

For more information contact Franciscan University Christian Conference Office at (800) 437-8368 or visit http://www.franciscanconferences.com

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If you's never attended a Catholic summer conference, perhaps this is the year to start. Kristie Wolfe, from Portage, Pa., attended the “Defending the Faith” conference at Franciscan University last summer with her husband as a wedding anniversary present.

“It was an outstanding experience,” she said. “The keynote speakers were all amazing—every one of them. It energized us as a couple. We saw our faith in a new light and now have ways to explain our faith to others that we didn' have before.”

Mary Ann Sullivan writes from New Durham, New Hampshire.