Catholics Come Home?
Over the last week several friends have inquired into the background of a marketing campaign now airing on television networks called Catholics Come Home. Perhaps you've seen it. If so, you were likely impressed, or even intrigued. And maybe, like me, you even paused for a moment and wondered, "Why did I leave the Catholic Church again?"
The Catholics Come Home campaign was founded by its president, Tom Petersen. Twelve years ago Tom returned to the Catholic Church following a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ at a men's retreat. Sensing God's call, Tom consecrated his 25 years of experience in the advertizing field to the task of promoting spiritual renewal among Catholics. This "apostolate" (or what evangelicals might call a parachurch ministry) is dedicated to reversing the tide of lapsed Catholics, calling them, with the warmest intonation and most technologically savvy forms of media, to "come home." As Tom puts it on the website:
Each of our television commercials invites people to come to CatholicsComeHome.org, where they are given the opportunity to learn (or relearn) the truth about the Catholic faith, find their local parish and return home. As our site says, coming home to the Catholic Church has never been easier!
Catholics Come Home wants to partner with Catholics like you to evangelize our fallen-away brothers and sisters, the un-churched and the under-churched. Campaigns are launching in numerous archdioceses and dioceses across the United States. With your help, Catholics Come Home plans to air nationally on mainstream television networks, during the top TV programs in 2010.
After the U.S. airings are underway, plans are slated for international airings—to help fill empty churches across the globe, and re-evangelize our culture worldwide.
The scope of Peterson's vision is enormous, but then again so is the challenge, as the website points out:
- Only 33 percent of U.S. Catholics attend Mass on a weekly basis. That means approximately 42.7 million U.S. Catholics are not practicing Catholics.
- The number of Americans identifying themselves as non-religious/secular increased 110 percent from 1990 to 2000! It is now 13.2 percent of the total population. Comparing this statistic with the previous one, non-religious, secular individuals outnumber active, Mass-attending Catholics by 58 percent.
- As many as 100,000 baptized Catholics in the U.S. drift away from church each year.
With one in ten Americans identifying as "former Catholics," according to a recent Pew Forum study, many in the Catholic Church long for renewal. It is a mission which Pope John Paul II called a "New Evangelization," a lay-led initiative of outreach to inactive or fallen-away Catholics.
Are any Catholics listening? You'd better believe it. The number of organizations "answering the Pope's call," as it's phrased, is impressive. Simply take note of the lawn signs outside of your neighborhood's local parish advertising programs such as "Alpha" and "Theology on Tap," or visit the Vatican's YouTube channel, or tune into Relevant Radio or the EWTN Global Catholic Network, or now surf the web to CatholicsComeHome.org, and you'll see it. Trenchantly conservative, devout, enterprising, organized, and above all committed to the Church, these Catholics are serious. In them, the spirit of Ignatius of Loyola lives.
I haven't heard too many proponents of the New Evangelization compare their efforts to the legacy of Loyola and his Society of Jesus; but for me, an armchair church historian, the parallel is striking. Starting with a commitment to supporting and serving the papacy, both endeavor to promote dynamic faith among laypeople and to enrich the structures of public life. The parallel of theological substance, spirituality, innovation, and evangelistic zeal is remarkable. With this connection in mind, I would like to offer two words of caution: one for Catholics and the other for Protestants.