Hoping to encourage at least 100,000 non-practicing Catholics to return to church, the Diocese of Sacramento is preparing a “come home” advertising campaign for this December and January.
At Mass over the next several weeks, church leaders will outline the program and ask parishioners to help pay for the ads. The ads are produced by the Catholics Come Home project.
"There's a large number of people who have left the church and are waiting for an invitation to come back," Msgr. James Murphy, vicar general of the diocese, told the Sacramento Bee. "This is their invitation."
The diocese has an estimated population of 950,000 Catholics, but only about 136,500 attend weekly Mass.
Msgr. Murphy said he was bothered to see so many Catholics filling fundamentalist churches.
“I'm glad they're going to church … but we want them back,” he said.
According to the monsignor, parishes throughout the diocese are preparing to address questions and concerns by returning Catholics.
Mike Halloran, executive director of the Catholic Foundation, told the Sacramento Bee that nearly 60 percent of the money for the $380,000 campaign had been raised. The money will go to the commercials only.
The ads will run in the Sacramento market 1,200 times over the six weeks from December 18 to January 31. Officials hope they will encourage 100,000 Catholics to return to church.
Eight other dioceses are running “Catholics Come Home” ads. They feature Catholics talking about why they returned to the Church and what it means to them.
In a 2008 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. There they can find answers to questions about Church teachings and also can learn how to contact their local parish to be led home to the Catholic Church.
“The website 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,” Peterson told CNA.
Catholics Come Home, Inc. was recently awarded the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management's 2009 Best Practices Award. Receiving the award, Peterson said his group was “blessed by God’s grace” and thankful to be recognized for its work.
He reported that the organization has now helped bring over 100,000 Catholics and converts back to the Church.
The “Catholics Come Home” ads first ran in the Diocese of Phoenix in 2008. During the campaign an estimated 90,000 Catholics returned to churchgoing. Ryan Hanning of the Diocese of Phoenix told the Sacramento Bee the diocese witnessed a 12 percent increase, the largest single year increase in the diocese’s history.
Hanning said that surveys of returning Catholics showed that most had left the Church because they had gotten too busy with daily life. A much smaller percentage cited church teachings on marriage and homosexuality as reasons for their absence.
Though Catholics make up an estimated 23 percent of the U.S. population, only 33 percent of them attend Mass on a weekly basis.