Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 6, 2009
Phoenix calls Catholics to come home
And a television ad campaign brings 92,000 inactive Catholics back to the Church
CNS PHOTO | CATHOLICS COME HOME
One ad showed people watching the best and worst of their lives on film.
The Diocese of Corpus Christi in Texas recently launched different versions of the television spots in English and Spanish. Each parish supplemented the commercials at Ash Wednesday services with a brochure for everyone answering common faith-related questions and listing Mass times and ministries.
The Catholics Come Home spots will appear in more than a dozen other dioceses around the country later in 2009 or early 2010. By the time Advent rolls around in 2010, organizers say they’ll go national on major networks.
“Our family is made up of every race,” begins the longest of the spots. “We are young and old, rich and poor, men and women, sinners and saints.”
The two-minute ad highlights the vital part the Catholic Church has played in establishing hospitals, orphanages and schools in addition to its role in science, marriage, family life, Scripture and sacraments.
“If you’ve been away from the Catholic Church, we invite you to take another look,” the announcer says toward the end. “We are Catholic; welcome home.”
Another two-minute ad shows men and women alone watching the best and the worst scenes from their lives play back before them on an old movie reel.
The final ad that aired — Peterson has dozens more like it ready to go — featured snippets of testimonials about why Catholics left the Church and what they found upon their return.
Peterson said the Catholics Come Home campaign has “the potential of re-Christianizing our society and even catechizing the world.”
A lot of pro bono production, nearly $1 million from various donors and foundations, and a grant from the Catholic Community Foundation helped put the ads on the air.
The Diocese of Phoenix has witnessed increased interest in the Church, which leaders are attributing to last year’s campaign.
“It’s exciting to see the fruits that continue to grow from this,” said Ryan Hanning, coordinator of adult evangelization for the diocese. According to Hanning, a number of the faithful have found a renewed passion for the Church, while fallen-away Catholics rejoined parish life.
Hanning worked closely with Peterson on the Catholics Come Home campaign and ensured that parish leaders, especially those in faith formation, were ready to welcome back Catholics and resolve sacramental and doctrinal issues.
More than 25 parishes created programs to welcome Catholics back to the Church.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe was one of them. It showed a video before Easter Masses and held a six-week program for returning Catholics.
“The commercials helped (fallen-away Catholics) realize that they were missing something in their lives,” said Father John Bonavitacola, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
He noticed that Catholics who had grown lax in their faith or who felt hurt by the Church, or who had divorced and remarried, returned. Many had their marriage validated in the Church while others joined for the first time.
Six months after the media campaign ended, a comprehensive analysis of its impact revealed a 22 per cent increase in Mass attendance at nine sample parishes.
Throughout the diocese, the average increased Mass attendance — returned and new Catholics — was 12 per cent. That’s despite a flat population growth in the diocese during that period.
“Wherever they’ve been, they can come back home. It’s a message that resonates,” Hanning said. “I never thought I’d have thousands of Catholics calling and emailing me and saying, ‘I’m proud to be Catholic and I want to help others.’”
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