An Italian Experience of Faith and Friendship

by Napa Institute
Published In November 03, 2021

The Napa Institute is blessed to have many friends of deep faith. As we prepare for the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, I thought you might like to read a brief, heartwarming story about some of those friends. It’s about my sister, Karen Busch, and Don and Monica Fischbeck, and their recent journeys through Italy. May you find spiritual inspiration in their wonderful experience, which is very similar to Napa Institute Experiences.             –Tim Busch, co-founder, the Napa Institute

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When my sister Karen first planned to join the Napa Institute’s 2020 trip to Italy and Israel – with stops in Rome and Jerusalem – our Mom was scheduled to go with her. But God had other plans. First, the pandemic canceled the trip. Then, in February, our Lord took Mom home to heaven.

Amid our grief, I encouraged Karen to go to Italy anyway. Our longtime Catholic friends from Orange County – Don and Monica Fischbeck – had recently retired to the beautiful city of Assisi. I knew Karen would find refreshment touring that beautiful country with them.

Karen’s adventure began in September when she traveled to Florence and Tuscany. She joined the Fischbecks in visiting Orvieto, Spello and of course, Assisi, where they celebrated Saint Francis’ Feast Day October 4th. She also met my friend, Bishop Robert Joseph Baker, who previously served as Bishop of Birmingham, Alabama, and was board member of EWTN.

The Feast Day was deeply moving, but even better spiritual fruits were in store. They headed to Rome where they stayed on the beautiful Via Veneto. They were accompanied by Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, who previously served as local chaplain to the Papal Foundation members during trips to Rome. A priest of Newark, he was recently sent to the Diocese of Rome, and is now assigned to Assisi.

In Rome, they enjoyed dinner with a longtime friend of the Napa Institute, James Cardinal Harvey from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who is Archpriest of St. Paul Outside the Walls – one of the four major Basilicas in Rome. To honor his years of faithful service to the church, we recently created the Cardinal Harvey Diplomacy Award, and he was the first recipient. Their time together was edifying to all.

Karen and the Fischbecks joined Mass with George Cardinal Pell – formerly Prefect of the Economy and a leader of great spiritual courage and patience. (They were accompanied by the Missionaries of Charity, who were brought to the Vatican by St. Pope John Paul II.) It is always inspiring to be around Cardinal Pell, who has faced egregious attacks for daring to reform the Vatican’s finances. It’s been a year-and-a-half since he was freed from Australian prison, following accusations which have been proven false. It says much that Cardinal Pell immediately returned to the work of faithful reform – something our Church desperately needs.

Karen and the Fischbecks concluded their time in Rome with horseback riding in the city itself – something I did not know was an option! Then they traveled south to the Amalfi coast, including a visit to Capri, before returning to Assisi.

There are wonderful photos of their trip included. Don and Monica organized the entire sojourn thru their travel company Umbrian Tours:

This trip was similar to our own Napa Institute Experiences, which offer a chance to walk in the footsteps of the saints and break bread with our Church’s most faithful leaders. I hope you will consider joining our upcoming Experiences – including a trip to Sicily and Malta May 1-9, 2022, an Eastern Europe trip to Vienna, Budapest and Prague from September 10 – 19, 2022, and finally, Israel in April 2023.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact Jenny Healy at

George Cardinal Pell celebrating Mass, featuring the Missionaries of Charity

Cardinal Pell, Karen Busch, Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, and the Missionaries of Charity

James Cardinal Harvey, Karen Busch, Msgr. Figueiredo

Mayor of Assisi Stefania Proietti and Karen Busch

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