.- In less than three weeks, 3,000 Catholics returned to the Church in the Diocese of Phoenix due to the effort of a new lay apostolate, CatholicsComeHome.org. The program consists of a website and commercials aired on local television that effectively portray the truth and goodness of the Catholic Church.
In an interview with CNA, Catholics Come Home, Inc. founder and president, Tom Peterson explained that the ads are designed to take people to the website, CatholicsComeHome.org, where they can find answers to questions about Church teachings, and also to put them into contact with their local parish to be led home, back to the Catholic Church.
Prior to founding Catholics Come Home, Peterson worked in advertising until he attended a retreat that completely changed his life. It was then that he knew God was calling him to use his advertising talents for evangelization.
Years later, he was contacted by the Diocese of Phoenix to help start a three-week campaign which was launched last month. In Phoenix, the commercials were aired on all major television networks and also ESPN, Lifetime, FOX News and others.
After the first commercial campaign, not only did the diocese report a marked increase in Mass attendance, but over “31,000 unique visitors came to the website from Phoenix and other US cities plus 60 foreign countries, with questions, to look up Mass times, to read information on marriage issues, to watch testimonies or to order Matthew Kelly’s book, ‘Rediscovering Catholicism.’”
The commercials aired on television are produced by CatholicsComeHome.org. Before airing the ads, two of the clips, “Epic”, and “Movie,” were shown to a focus group that consisted of former and practicing Catholics, non Catholic Christians, as well as those without any faith.
The feedback received from the group was outstanding. Seventy-eight of the 100 participants had positive responses to the ads. In another assessment, the organization found that before watching the videos, 90% of the participants had negative impressions of the Catholic Church. After viewing ads one time, 54% had a much more favorable impression. Hearts and minds were changed after viewing these creative and inspired ads.
The first commercial, “Epic” portrays the history, beauty, and spirituality of the Church that Jesus started 2,000 years ago. Peterson mentioned that “many people don’t realize the history of the Church. They don’t realize that Peter – the Apostle from the Bible – was the first Pope. They don’t realize the vast accomplishments that the Church has made over the centuries.”
“Epic” also effectively represents the universality of the Church. The clip shows a Mexican fiesta, an African Mass, a Tongan baptism, aid workers serving in a Vietnamese jungle, among other scenes.
The reaction to the video has been overwhelmingly positive. Viewers commented, “After seeing ‘Epic’, it made me proud to be Catholic.” Priests have noted that the video made them feel “re-invigorated about their vocation.” The video also has touched former Catholics who have said that the video showed the truth about the Church – “truth that they haven’t seen in decades.”
The second commercial, “Movie” has a different effect. Peterson described the ad as mirroring the Book of Revelation which states that we will give an account of our lives at the end of time.
“Most people are brought to tears when they watch “Movie,” said Peterson. It shows that though Jesus’ divine mercy, “no matter what we’ve done, we can accept the mercy of Jesus who will help us create the perfect ending to each of our lives.”
Not only have people enjoyed the video clips, but they have also succeeded in bringing people back to the Church. One woman, Angela, said that she became an agnostic 20 years ago. After watching the video she commented, “How is it that after seeing the commercial one time, I go to the CatholicsComeHome.org website, look up my local church and go home?”
The commercials encourage people to visit the site which contains information for three groups of people: Those who “used to be Catholic”, those who “are not Catholic” and those who “are practicing Catholics.”
Peterson described the site saying, “The web site provides answers to questions about Church teachings, and why strong faith is important in today’s busy and confusing world. The site also offers an overview of the faith, with additional resources and a local parish finder.”
The website also includes 26 short testimonial videos – stories of why people left the Church and how they began their journey back home. The stories are representative of common reasons that people leave the Church and the unique circumstances and call from God that led them back to the Catholic faith.
CatholicsComeHome.org also has a Spanish site: CatolicosRegresen.org. It is a goal of the organization to launch its ministry worldwide once the commercials are perfected and aired heavily on national TV networks here in the United States first.
While CatholicsComeHome.org is still searching for further funding and quality advisors, the organization is hoping to take the information learned in the focus groups and initial airings, and bring the commercials to other dioceses next year.
When asked where these commercials will be broadcast, Peterson stated, “On main network programs like during American Idol, the evening news, and even the Super Bowl. Imagine if we can do it, how our culture would change for the better and God would be glorified.”
For more information, and to support this non-profit charity, please visit CatholicsComeHome.org.