The 2012 Napa Institute Conference

The Napa Institute’s 2nd Annual Conference, “Catholics In the Next America”, will be held from Thursday, July 26th to Sunday, July 29th. The event will feature an impressive array of speakers and participants, including Archbishiop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Bishop Robert C. Morlino, Bishop Robert F. Vasa,  Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Rev. Robert Barron, Rev. Joseph D. Fessio, S.J., Rev. Norbert Wood, O.Praem., Peter Kreeft, Hugh Hewitt, Frank J. Hanna, III, Dr. Tim Gray, Dr. Elizabeth F. Yore, and Leonard A. Leo.

The event is hosted by Rev. Robert Spitzer, S.J., the President of Napa Institute, and Timothy R. Busch, Esq., who is CEO of the Institute; Fr. Spitzer will also be a featured speaker at the conference.

The three intertwining themes of the 2012 conference, says Busch, are faith and reason, Catholic education and religious freedom. “In the wake of HHS mandate”, Busch notes, “religious freedom is certainly the topic of the day. However, it’s not the only pressing issue of the day. The Church is facing the departure of our young adults from not only from the Catholic faith, but from belief in God in general. So Fr. Spitzer will lead the charge on reason and faith at the conference.” Busch also points out that Catholic education is “under siege at the parochial level particularly in urban centers”, with numerous schools closing each year. In light of that challenging fact, he says, “we need to address new school models that will work.”

The pressing topic of religious liberty will be addressed in Thursday’s presentations, including those by Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Morlino. Catholic education will the focus of Friday’s events, including a talk by Fr. Barron (who was recently appointed rector and president of the University of St. Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary by Francis Cardinal George), Fr. Spitzer, and Frank Hanna III. Saturday’s schedule includes presentations by Fr. Spitzer, Fr. Barron, and Dr. Kreeft on faith and reason, a topic all three men have spoken and written about extensively for both academic and popular audiences. Breakout sessions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will include a variety of topics and presenters.

Challenges and Encouragement

The varied and difficult challenges posed by secularism must be addressed directly, says Fr. Spitzer, which is a primary reason for the formation and work of the Napa Institute. “Challenges to religion and the Catholic Church surround us”, he says. “Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, and many other atheists are undermining the faith of our youth and adults; the President of the United States insists on forcing our religious institutions to administer artificial contraception against Church teaching; our young people, though optimistic and concerned for others, are becoming increasingly morally relativistic; the media almost luxuriates in scandals which give only a slice of the immensely good reality accomplished by our Church.”

A driving idea behind the conference is that Catholic leaders—whether clergy or laity—need to learn more about these pressing issues from leading thinkers, authors, theologians, and philosophers. “If we are to stand up for our faith in the public square,” Busch states, “we must be educated. The Institute focuses on substance of our Faith by bringing together theologians, philosophers and the shepherds of our church for instruction, discussion, and mutual encouragement.” 

The Napa Institute was founded as a response to the call for a New Evangelization, intended to help Catholics address the challenged posed by the “next America”—one that is increasingly secular and even anti-religious. A key component of the New Evangelization, as articulated by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, explains Fr. Spitzer, “is the active participation by our lay leaders. We expect our priests, religious, and catechists to respond to the challenges put to faith and morals in our day, but we minimize our effectiveness when we do not prepare our lay leaders to do this for the organizations, educational boards, governmental agencies and political arenas over which they have considerable influence.”

Worship and Spiritual Edification

To that end, the Napa Institute Conference focuses not only on reason and teaching, but also on the spiritual life and worship. Participants will be able to spend time in Eucharistic adoration, available around the clock in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Grapes, and to participate in prayer and worship each day. On Saturday evening there will be Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Solemn Vespers and a Sacred Music Concert, featuring St. Dominic’s Choir. And the conference will conclude on Sunday morning with four liturgies: a Solemn Pontifical Celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated by His Excellency, Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone; Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (Novus Ordo); Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom  (Byzantine Rite); and Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (Novus Ordo, Latin). The music at the High Mass will sung by the Pacific Collegium choir.

Those who are unable to attend, says conference director Luke Miller, will be able to take advantage of the presentations via television, radio, and internet. A crew from Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) will be at the conference to film keynote sessions, selected breakout sessions, and some of the liturgical services. “Following the conference”, says Miller, “highlights from the Napa Institute will be broadcasted on the EWTN Global Catholic Network. We are truly blessed to be working with the leader in Catholic media as we equip Catholics ‘in the next America.’” Parts of those broadcasts will also be made available on YouTube. In addition, broadcaster Al Kresta will be on site, hosting his Ave Maria Radio program, “Kresta in the Afternoon”, live from the conference.

Last year’s conference, Miller says, was a great success, and he expects close to three hundred participants at this year’s event. For more information or to register, visit the Napa Institute website ( or call 949-474-7368 (ext. 216).

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.