Culture Minute. Mother Assumpta Long, OP sits down with Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Tim Busch

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From time to time, Foundress Mother Assumpta Long runs into freinds of the community and they find time to have a chat. This week Mother sits down with Catholic Entrepreneur and Philanthropist and fellow Michigander – Tim Busch.

Mother Assumpta: 

We’re so honored today to have Tim Busch with us. Tim is no stranger to Michigan. He is a remarkable man. He’s not only a businessman, a lawyer, a philanthropist but his most important title is husband and father. We will take some time to discover how faith and virtue played a part in his success in life? Hello Tim, welcome to the LED Studio. Tell us about your upbringing and your family. How did they influence you in faith and in life? 

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Tim Busch: 

Thank you Mother. Well, I was the second of six children, born in a little farm community in Clinton, Michigan. I went to St. Elizabeth Catholic School. They had the Adrian Dominicans who look like the Ann Arbor Dominicans. It was through the upbringing of family and also having that exposure to the sisters [influenced me.] Our parish was St. Dominic’s. Every Friday the sisters would come over to have mass. About third grade, one of the Dominican sisters said to the class, “You go to mass on Sunday, but there’s nothing wrong with going to mass another day a week.” We had school Mass on Wednesdays, but it was then that I took that to heart and began going to daily mass somewhere around fourth grade, every day, until I was in 12th grade. 

Mother Assumpta:

Your parents must have been remarkable. Evidently your father was in the war and was also very hard working person. How did he go from that to Busch Supermarkets? How did he raise you? How did he instill virtue in you? 

Tim Busch: 

My father was in the war at the end in the Asian Theater. Probably because of the atomic bomb he was not killed because otherwise they would have attacked Tokyo and he would have likely been a casualty. After the war, he got into the meat cutting business. Then he and one of his friends from high school who was also in the military started a small supermarket in Clinton, Michigan. In those days, it was a big supermarket compared to the other types that were there, and we all began working in the Market at a young age. I was seven years old, so work was fun. It was something I enjoyed. I got my father’s spirit of entrepreneurship – the idea that you could own your own business. And that was passed on, as a lot of people were employed by other people which is great, and the idea of taking a risk and maybe not having a paycheck and maybe not having enough money to pay your bills is a risk most people don’t want to take, and I saw my father do it. It was a lot of anxiety, but it really is the greatest thing in addition to the faith that he passed on to me. 

Mother Assumpta: 

I remember you told me about the time that he made all of you deliver papers. 

Tim Busch: 

We started delivering newspapers in Clinton. We each started with the routes, and then when I went to college, we passed them down to each other. So everyone of the children had the same routes. It was prior to digital, but the papers were consolidating, so we were delivering multiple papers like the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News and the Adrian Telegram. We got multiple routes and then basically had the entire town. We had to do it everyday. Sometimes we would wait up and do the papers at night so we wouldn’t have to get up early. The papers would come around 10:30 at night. It was particularly harsh in the winters because you’d be riding your bike or walk where the snow is really deep. Sometimes mom would drive us if it were really bad, and that made it a lot easier.

Mother Assumpta: 

It’s beautiful to talk about having sisters and practicing your faith as a child. When did you take ownership of your faith?  When did you say, this is mine?

Tim Busch: 

It is hard to pick a date but I was enamored with the faith during my early years of life, and I mean 4 or 5 years old. I don’t know what was happening. I had almost what was probably an attack by evil. It was almost like a depression. I would get it, and I didn’t understand it. It didn’t happen every day. It would happen occasionally, but it was like all I could see was what I now understand to be Hell. I was scared. I remember one day waking up and crying, and my babysitter was there, and they said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I don’t know, but I’m scared.” There seemed to be some kind of an attack, but I didn’t understand any of that. When I started going to daily mass, it seemed to be something that was very normal and natural, but it wasn’t. It was very unusual. 

I finished sixth grade in Catholic school. At that time, the classes were 65 students. The Archbishop decided to mandate all classes be reduced to 45 students. Any child who was not in the parish, which we weren’t, would be dismissed. I remember how much of a struggle that was for me. I thought I was essentially being kicked out of my own school, but nobody’s doing it with bad intentions. I went to public schools the rest of my life, and I missed a lot. I kept the yearning for Catholic education, and I attribute that to wanting my kids to have Catholic education because I only had 6 years of it. Later in life we founded St. Ann in Laguna Nigel and JCera in San Juan Capistrano, California. Now we have two thousand students in Catholic education, and now with the Dominican sisters of Ann Arbor. It’s a joy. A lot of my friends that have a better understanding of philosophy and theology, because I never had a class in theology and philosophy but God put in me a yearning that we pay forward to something that I knew I loved but I didn’t take for granted. 

Mother Assumpta: 

It almost seems like God had His hand on you. How did you get from Michigan to California?

Tim Busch: 

Everybody has a rich uncle, and I had one too. His name was John, and he was the youngest brother of my father Joe. When John was three, their mother died, so they were without a mother for a while. My grandfather remarried, and they moved to Clinton, Michigan, but it was a step mother. In many ways, my father raised my uncle and was his comrade. They stayed close. My uncle was not 18 when the stepmother moved to California. I’m not exactly certain why, but she moved to California, and he moved with her. They were in Northern California, but ultimately business took him to Southern California, and I went out there to visit them. I love California. During much of the 70s and 80s, the economy wasn’t great here, so my brother and my sister and I moved to California and pursued our professional careers. Orange County was an incredible place, on fire expanding, welcoming people from other places. In many ways, that was also God’s hand because what I’ve been able to do in California couldn’t have been done here. You are never a prophet in your own land and sometimes you have to come from somewhere else.

Mother Assumpta: 

You have a beautiful wife and a wonderful family. It’s always impressed me how beautifully you work together. I was fascinated you mentioned education. I understand now why you were so interested in Catholic education, but I was fascinated me because you asked her to be the principal of St. Anne school and then you went to JCera. I thought, “How come they were so interested [in Catholic education]?” It was just faith. That’s wonderful.

Tim Busch: 

You go back to the legacy of this and Tom Monaghan and I knew each other from Legatus. We had known each other through the years. He was in the throws of Spiritus Sanctus schools and thinking about what to do in education. We made a lot of mistakes early on about how to solidify the faith and governance and so forth, but God was leading us, it was really miraculous. Doors opened, and it was purely Divine Providence. Ultimately, they both came back to being Catholic schools independent of the diocese. They’re still acknowledged as Catholic schools by the bishop, but they’re not within the hierarchy and politics. Steph wasn’t even Catholic, and she came in as the Chief Operating Officer. She is an educator, and her father was an elementary school principal for 40 years, so she had a background in education. What brought her to the faith was when my youngest daughter in second grade said, “Mom, why aren’t you going to communion?” That triggered something to say “I need to become Catholic.” I had a very similar experience in sixth grade. I asked my mother why she wasn’t Catholic, and she went ahead and became Catholic. Kids on their own ask a lot of people whether they’re Catholic or anti-Catholic. That’s why I love our Protestant brothers and sisters because my mother and wife were not, and they were converted. A lot of people in my life are looking for truth, and it’s always broken unless we are in the Catholic faith. We have the truth.

Mother Assumpta: 

The Napa Institute is off the charts now. How did this all come about?

Tim Busch: 

It’s almost 10 years now in August of 2010. I was vacationing on the big island of Hawaii. I’m not much of a beach guy. I can only take sitting still for so long. Everybody’s on the beach. I’m working on some things, and a revelation came to me. I had a dictaphone, and I started dictating whatever came into my mind. It was the formation of the Napa Institute summer conference, and it’s still the same way today but much bigger. We started out with 150 and now it’s 700 attendees. It goes on for five days now, and they’re talking about adding on. From there people came to me and said, “You have to do more,” so we’ve expanded into a business conference, experiences, travel, press conferences, and training education and many other things. Next month we’re about to enter into a strategic plan as we end our 10th year next summer to ask what is God calling us to be in a Catholic lifestyle organization. It is a Summer Conference Faith formation liturgy and fraternity, but how else can we manifest that mission? The word I began with as I addressed the strategic planning committee is this is Divine Providence. There’s no way I had any knowledge of doing this. The success of it has been mind-boggling, but most importantly I’ve been given people that have kept us on track. We have had great Bishops and Priests step forward from all walks: Dominicans; Jesuits; Opus Dei; Franciscan; Carmelites. We have them there, and they get along joyfully. I attribute some of the inspiration to Tom Monaghan and what he created in Legatus but it is still a different model. 

Mother Assumpta: 

Like you said, this has to be of God. I don’t know how you even think of all this because that’s just one thing and then what about this business school at Catholic University.

Tim Busch: 

It’s scary sometimes, but I’m getting better because God provides these ideas, and opportunities are there are some times I get a little short and say, “I can’t take anymore,” and then I think about it and say, “He’ll provide.” I know that is trite, but it’s true if you believe in the power of prayer. I tell my wife or anybody who’s struggling with problems, “I will pray for you, but please pray for yourself.” If we take that very seriously and believe in that, it happens. Sometimes He delivers it in a different way in a different time, but it always comes out where you can look back and say His hand was there. 

I was on the board at the Catholic University of America for 12 years. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was having fun meeting a lot of the prelates. I don’t think boards of large universities are like that. I don’t think they have much say over what goes on, but this particular board was unique at the time: 25 Bishops and 25 lay people. We got to know the people, and the interaction was setting the table for the next thing that was going to happen. January of 2013, Dr. Andrew Abela came into the boardroom and proposed to the board that there be a new business school created. It was a department before, and I really perked up because even though I’m a lawyer, I’m really a business person. I immediately went to Dr. Abela, who I didn’t really know, and said, “I would love to be on your Advisory Board,” and then quickly I became the chairman of it. We started recruiting. I had known Charles Koch, and he was aware that Catholic University had taken a few grants from his organization. Somehow we got working, and within three years, we had arranged and facilitated the largest gift in the history of the university and really put the business school on the map. There’s a lot of work to do there. We have seminaries for priests. We need to have the equivalent of a seminary for business people because business people can impact culture and be subject to culture so much more than any other profession. They have enormous capital, and an enormous amount of people work for them, and they can influence those people through their leadership and their public speech and private counseling. I hope that we would become the standard for even secular business education because what business person doesn’t want to be ethical and moral. In the end, it’s the only way you are long-term successful. The Bible is our best teacher.

Mother Assumpta: 

How did the hotels fit into your scheme? 

Tim Busch: 

I was in real estate development with a local partner here in Michigan, and I said, “Why don’t we get into the hotel business?” It seems like a great business to be in the hospitality business. I wanted to develop my own brand. Ultimately, we did, but it was better to have waited because the digital renaissance has allowed us to be independent in many of our brands. We now have 12 hotels. It is the primary income generator for the philanthropy that we carry on, and I love it. I love practicing law, but you get much more leverage [in a business]. We have 2400 team members, and we’re always dealing with people that generally are at their best as opposed to when you’re a lawyer and nobody’s paying you 500 dollars an hour unless they have a problem. I was a tax lawyer, so it was a different type of a problem, but I enjoyed it. I think we can evangelize through our businesses,. In each one of our rooms, we put a Catholic Bible, a rosary, and a crucifix, and then we put little instructions on how to pray the rosary because I think 90% of Catholics don’t know how to pray the rosary, much less other people.

Mother Assumpta: 

Talk about your wine Trinitas. 

Tim Busch: 

We started 17 years ago. Originally, we’re going to call it Trinity because there were three partners. Now we use the theme about co-creation with God since farming is so co-creative. We had fun making some religious-based ones, putting a message on the back about how we honor God in all that we do. We made a Rat-Zinger, which was the red Zinfandel for Pope Benedict XVI, which was very good, and Pope Benedict loved it. We made Cabernet Francis when Pope Francis was elected. Now we have fully inscribed bottles, and I’ve been told that you can see it on his table every once in a while. It’s an annual thing that we give them. 

Mother Assumpta:

Tell us about your family.

Tim Busch: 

My wife and I have been married 34 years. My uncle met her in a restaurant and introduced her to me and said this is your wife, and as soon as I met her, I said, “This is the one I’m going to marry.”  We have two beautiful children, Garrett who’s my entrepreneurial son, and Kenzie, my daughter. They got married in 2014 within 90 days of each other, and Kenzie said, “I want to let my brother get married first because he’s older,” so he got married in June and she got married exactly 90 days later in September. Very shortly Garrett was able to have children, and Kenzie was struggling a bit with her Lyme disease which has been a big cross for her to bear. When Garrett came to me in the summer of the Napa Institute 2015, he had some news that he and Betsy had an ultrasound to back up their pregnancy news, and they were having triplets. I was blown away. I never even had twins in our family, much less triplets, and it was all a shock. They were born in January seven weeks early but all healthy, and they’ve been great. They had a daughter in the September 2017. On Easter Sunday, my daughter had a baby boy. During mass, I was called to say the baby is on the way, and I thought that was amazing. She’d been praying to St. Gianna Molla, the patroness of women and pregnancy, and it turned out that April 21st, Easter this year, was Gianna Molla’s birthday. Then Betsy and Garrett said we had some news. I knew there were going to be pregnant again, and they were having twins. I fell over. This is incredible. They’re going to have six children under four.

Mother Assumpta: 

I bet your wife is thrilled. 

Tim Busch:

We all are. In all the turmoil, you have to sit back and meditate on what God’s trying to tell us. He doesn’t just give this kind of gift. He expects us to produce with that. I was always was anxious over the fact that we only had two kids, so I believe that we’ve been blessed to have these grandchildren and have a chance of influencing them and their lives and in their faith. The triplets are now enrolled in St. Ann’s. Felicity will start in September when she turns two, and then hopefully the new twins will start as well. It’s like we’re going to live life all over again, God willing that we stay alive. It’s pretty exciting that this is all happening to us.

Mother Assumpta: 

We cannot thank you enough because we have so much in religious life, but it is so wonderful to see the lay people practicing their faith and believing because otherwise you think the culture is engulfing us. Like you said, you need to trust God and let Him direct your life. Is there anything else that you’d like to tell people to encourage them to pray and profess your faith?

Tim Busch: 

I’ve never been criticized by any secular person for being bold about my faith, saying grace at a public event or a company event or at lunch. I think people, whether they’re religious based or not, have a certain respect for that, especially if you live your life following the teachings. To your point about laity, John XXIII said, “Throw the windows of the Church open.” One of the main tenets that came out of that theme was to engage the laity. 60 years later, we’re still engaged in the laity. I think there’s a certain amount of clericalism that does arise that that will work through. I think every faithful person considers a vocation to the priesthood and religious life, and I look back and say that I was able to accomplish much more for me because I had different gifts and they weren’t going to be as successful inside of a church hierarchy. A successful private equity guy said to me, “If they had allowed me to marry, I would have become a priest,” and I said to him, “I’m glad that you didn’t become a priest because you have done so much as a lay person.” I believe in the vow of celibacy. I think this is where we’re struggling in the Church today – among the priesthood. We’re trying to blame all these problems on celibacy, and it’s the furthest thing from the truth. I think either you have a married vocation or you have a priestly vocation in the case of a male, but I think they’re both vocations. If I was a priest, I wouldn’t have the extra resources or capabilities to do a lot of things that we do, and so I’m happy I chose that vocation, but everybody has to choose their own. 

Mother Assumpta: 

That’s wonderful. Do the best you can, but it’s amazing how God will work in your life. It’s wonderful how the Holy Spirit works in your life in ways that you don’t even understand until it happens. Then you think how did the Holy Spirit do this? 

Tim Busch: 

In America, we’re brought up thinking that you control your own destiny, so it’s hard, especially for somebody who has been successful, to adopt that principle. I have a spiritual director through Opus Dei. The charism of Opus Dei for business people is that they call it “the work,” and so they’re more accustomed to dealing with people and the secular world because you’re always going to come across problems with family or friends in the business. Somebody let you down. Somebody steals money from you. Somebody attacks you. You have to approach adversity the same way you approach success. You have to say that this is a gift from God, and it is preparing me for something huge that down the road. 

Mother Assumpta: 

Even from the time of Christ, if you’re doing the right thing, then you’re going to suffer. That’s all the martyrs in our history. If we are against the culture, like we don’t believe in assisted suicide or same-sex marriage, we’re going to suffer for proclaiming the truth. We try to proclaim it with love. You’re going to be attacked, yet God can bring greater things from that not only for your own salvation, but for others. It’s inevitable if we’re going to go out there and preach truth. The world doesn’t want truth from the very beginning. 

Tim Busch: 

I think suffering is part of life. It makes you a better human being and prepares you for eternal salvation. Where we’ve got the issues of abortion, same-sex marriage, no gender identity, it gets more ridiculous. I can’t even imagine where they would go if we didn’t push back, and and there will be a reform. These are all lies, and people are going to see it in the next generation. The younger generation sees the lie of abortion. They happen to buy into the lie of same-sex marriage, but I believe the next generation will look back and say, “How’s that working out for us?” It isn’t going to be, and they will change their feelings. It will take 40 years probably before we see a return of that. I tell people I’ve been praying the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel since we’ve had this church upheaval. It is a very powerful prayer. Many Dioceses have adopted it after the mass. The Napa Institute adopted it after every mass that we sponsor because that wraps around the protection against the spiritual warfare that we’re all under.

Mother Assumpta: 

My father died in 1984, but I can remember with the crazy things after Vatican II, he always declared, “When they stop saying that St. Michael prayer after Mass is when everything happened.” We stopped praying it about then, and we need to put it back in. 

Tim Busch: 

Just for your listeners to remember, there is a lot of truth to that and part of the Extraordinary Rite Mass is the prayer to St. Michael and we stopped praying it about then and so we need to put it back in.  It’s a very good one. At the Busch School in Catholic University, we built a chapel, and we named it St. Michael the Archangel. We committed to say the prayer after every mass and we have a plaque with the prayer. Providentially, Catholic University was founded by Pope Leo XIII, who wrote that prayer. So, it all ties together.

Mother Assumpta: 

Thank you so much for being with us here. It’s going to be a wonderful message to get out to our people, and we thank you for your witness of a Catholic life and a beautiful family and all the things you’re doing. I can’t wait to see what you’re doing next. 


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