When Catholic businessman Tim Busch read the article “Catholics and the Next America” by Archbishop Charles Chaput, he was inspired. Busch is the founder of the Napa Institute — a new organization that aims to equip Catholic leaders to advance the Catholic faith in today’s secular society. The group’s annual conference is marked by a commitment to the Church’s intellectual tradition and an ability to cultivate a community.
The organization has already established itself as a center of knowledge and hope for American Catholics, attracting great Catholic leaders such as the institute’s ecclesiastical adviser, Archbishop Chaput, and its president, Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer — the former president of Gonzaga University and head of the Magis Center of Faith and Reason.
Busch is also a member of Legatus, a Catholic group of businessmen launched by Catholic billionaire and founder of Domino’s Pizza Tom Monaghan. Busch credits Legatus with the most influential Catholic formation he has received in his adult life, and he has been inspired by the commitment of Monaghan, who also founded Ave Maria University.
The Napa Institute has risen to the challenge to meet the new adversaries and adversities of the “Next America” and is calling fellow Catholics to live a bold and informed Catholic life. Busch spoke with Dan Burke, the Register’s executive director, about Napa’s mission.
I suspect you were already active in your faith before you read Archbishop Chaput’s article. Was there ever a time when your faith played a less significant role in your life — and, if so, what was the turning point for you?
Well, I’ve always been committed to the faith. I was a cradle Catholic, and I started attending daily Mass in third or fourth grade — continuing through college to go occasionally during the week. I returned to daily Mass when I became involved in Legatus, and Legatus became the next critical step of formation for me. I’ve been involved for about 21 years now.
The idea of the Napa Institute hit me like a ton of bricks while I was vacationing in Hawaii. I felt there needed to be an intellectual Catholic apologetics conference on the West Coast. Archbishop Chaput’s article came as both an encouragement and a nucleus of thought that inspired some of the content of the conference.
Did you then further develop the conference idea with Archbishop Chaput?
Yes, and he also came up with the tagline: “Equipping Catholics in the ‘Next America.’” I also spoke to Mark Brumley, the president of Ignatius Press, about bringing a conference to Napa, where he lives. I started writing and creating this conference in August of 2010 — and we were blessed to hold our first conference at the end of July 2011.
In reviewing your many business and philanthropic efforts, it seems that your faith permeates all that you do, as with your winery, Trinitas Cellars. You regularly work with secular entities in the course of business, so how does your faith impact your business dealings?
As you say, my faith does influence all of my business dealings, and I’ve never really been criticized for it. The only time it ever comes up is in interviews, when people ask: “How can you do that? Aren’t they [non-Catholics] offended?” I actually have people come up to me all the time — not necessarily Catholics, though most are Christians — to say, “Thank you” for bringing God into what is otherwise a secular environment.
I think the majority, a silent majority, is yearning for faith to be returned to the marketplace. We need to be brave and stand up to the evil one that inspires this secularism — and we need to arm people with testimonies and content. This is what the Napa Institute is about. It exists to show people what you can do when you give them the wherewithal to explain the faith. It inspires them to see that God is not just about religion, but about art and music and relationships and family. Somehow we’ve gotten distracted about that in this country over the last 25 years.
Many of our readers are Catholic leaders of influence who work entirely in the secular world. If you could offer them a word of advice about integrating their faith into their business life, what would that be, and what would be the essential elements to do that very thing?
It can be simple things, like leading prayer before a meal, either in a business luncheon or any company function. The prayer can be generic, approaching and addressing God. In your office, you can have elements of your faith, such as a crucifix or religious art. In our office, we have a chapel. We are very blessed to have daily Mass, and we have a priest, Father Robert Spitzer, who is actually the president of Napa Institute and head of the Magis Center of Faith and Reason. We have daily Mass, but nobody has ever said anything about it. There are fellow Catholics who worry that someone is going to object, but we have never received a complaint. We have a chapel. So what? You don’t have to go to the chapel if you don’t want to.
Now, I’m assuming you have non-Catholic people who work for you. Do you invite them to Mass and to other religious activities — or do you feel like the presence of these things is the invitation?
The presence is the invitation. Often, when we have a Mass in the chapel for a mother or father who is sick or recently deceased, Catholics and non-Catholics both attend out of respect for their fellow employee.
The Holy Spirit does a much better job of inviting than we can, so all we need to do is celebrate our faith, and people will respond. People regularly comment to me, “Your courage in commitment to your faith has changed my life” — and I’m not even saying anything! They want the faith, and the Holy Spirit inspires the faith. Each of us, especially people like your readers, have the opportunity to push it up a notch. Don’t be afraid. It’s not going to be a negative. People aren’t going to think you’re silly. People will respect you.
How have Catholic leaders responded to the Napa Institute launch? How many were in attendance at your last event?
Two hundred fifty people were there, so it was a good start. Everybody that came said they wanted to come back. We have really stressed that we want speakers to deliver powerful content on the themes of faith and reason, Catholic education and religious liberty. In addition — though there is no requirement to attend Mass — we have five Masses a day. The informal social aspect of the events is also distinctive. Many conferences require business attire and formal sit-down dinners, but our events are more causal. Just show up in jeans and mingle with the prelates and speakers. We want the thought-provoking Q-and-A to continue throughout the social time. It’s that interaction and sharing of ideas that can help to form and inspire Catholic leaders for the next generation.
To find out more about the Napa Institute, go to Napa-Institute.org.