The Augusta Chronicle in the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia reports: "Ads call Catholics back to church"

The Catholics Come Home® TV Commercials will be airing in the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia and state-wide in less than a month.  The Augusta Chronicle  reports, below:

By Kelly Jasper
Staff Writer
Friday, Nov. 19, 2010

Twenty years ago, Cristine Bays left the Catholic Church. There was no big pronouncement or public protest.

“I had just drifted away,” said Bays, an Evans mother of three.

Cristine Bays spent most of her adult life going to church off and on, but after an illness about three years ago she committed to attending church full time. "I've always felt at home in the Catholic Church. I wish all people felt it was their home."  Corey Perrine/Staff

photo: Corey Perrine/Staff, Cristine Bays spent most of her adult life going to church off and on, but after an illness about three years ago she committed to attending church full time. "I've always felt at home in the Catholic Church. I wish all people felt it was their home."

The same is true for millions of Catholics who don’t attend weekly Mass, or who have fallen away from religion entirely or become Protestant.

A new program — half evangelism effort, half public relations campaign — issues an invitation to out-of-practice Catholics across Georgia.

Television commercials created by the nonprofit lay organization Catholics Come Home will air on network and cable television from Dec. 17 to Jan. 23. The commercials, in English and Spanish, will air during prime time. Some celebrate church history; others show the testimony of Catholics who have “come home.”

The Catholic Diocese of Savannah raised $160,000 to air the commercials throughout its 90 counties, including Richmond and Columbia.

The Catholics Come Home ad campaign will air in prime time cable and network television from Dec. 17 through Jan. 23 in the 90 counties of the Diocese of Savannah. Watch the commercials and learn more at catholicscomehome.org

The Catholics Come Home ad campaign will air in prime time cable and network television from Dec. 17 through Jan. 23 in the 90 counties of the Diocese of Savannah. Watch the commercials and learn more at catholicscomehome.org

The average American watches four hours of TV a day, making the campaign one of the most effective ways to bring Catholics back to the church, said Tom Peterson, a former marketing executive who founded Georgia-based Catholics Come Home in 1998.

He was “nominally Catholic” until attending a retreat in Arizona, which renewed his faith.

“God was calling me to use my advertising talents to serve him,” Peterson said. “The light bulbs went off, and the adventure began.”

He moved to Roswell, Ga., to grow the ministry. Since its founding, some 200,000 Catholics have returned to the church. When the commercials were launched in the Phoenix market, 92,000 Catholics returned. “That was just in one city,” Peterson said.

On average, each diocese sees Mass attendance increase 10 percent.

Most, like Bays, don’t have serious issues with the church but have fallen out of the habit of regular church attendance, Peterson said. Catholics Come Home’s research has shown that the average Catholic who leaves then returns to the church has been away for nine years.

It took a personal invitation for Bays to return, she said. During a hospital stay three years ago, she was visited daily by churchgoers.

“It was the push I needed,” said Bays, now a member of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Grovetown, where her husband, Brian, will soon convert to Catholicism.

Augusta parishes were recently visited by Bishop J. Kevin Boland and other leaders in the diocese. They’re traveling the state to deliver workshops on how to deal with the influx of members.

“We know we have to be more welcoming. It’s everything from opening doors to saying hello and offering a doughnut or two. It’s the stuff Protestants figured out years ago,” Joe Soparas said with a laugh. He and his wife, Mary, are coordinators of St. Teresa’s Catholics Come Home program.

Priests are also setting aside time to meet with those returning to the church or grappling with issues, said the Rev. Michael Lubinsky, the parochial vicar of The Church of the Most Holy Trinity in downtown Augusta.

“Catholics Come Home is a process for all Catholics, inactive and active, by which all are invited to come to the Lord by the holy sacraments of love and mercy and affection and forgiveness,” he said.

From 2000 to 2010, only 22 percent of U.S. Catholics attended Mass on a weekly basis, according to a poll by CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a nonprofit Georgetown University-affiliated research center that studies the Catholic Church. That speaks to the millions of Americans who identify as Catholic but aren’t practicing Catholics, Peterson said.

“This is an invitation for them, too,” he said.

With at least 68 million members, the Catholic Church claims more adherents than any other American denomination, about 22 percent of the U.S. population. With membership waning, 1 in 10 Americans identifies as a former Catholic, according to the most recent Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, compiled in 2008.

“For the most part, it’s really the secular lures of the world that pull people away. Life gets busy,” Peterson said. “Ninety percent say they’d come back if someone invited them.”

Catholics Come Home usually runs its six-week campaigns through the Christmas season or Lent.

“It’s a great time to issue an invitation,” Peterson said.

“Most people see the ad on TV and say, ‘I started to tear up. I felt like God was personally calling me home.’ ”
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Please Keep the Diocese of Savannah, and all of our CCH Diocesan Partners in Your Prayers as they Prepare for these Important Evangelization Initiatives!
Learn more about bringing CatholicsComeHome.org TV commercials to your diocese

The Savannah Morning News Reports the CatholicsComeHome.org Diocesan Partner Initiative

CatholicsComeHome.org TV Commercials will be airing state-wide in Georgia in less than 40 days.  The Savannah Morning News reports, below:

Ad campaign to call home lapsed Catholics

Diocese officials encourage members to extend open arms to long inactive believers
By Dana Clark Felty
2010-11-05

The commercial moves from scenes of a mariachi band and a 19th century hospital to a modern classroom and a wedding.

A soothing male voice speaks over the images.

“We are the largest charitable organization on the planet,” it says. “We educate more children than any other scholarly or religious institution. We developed the scientific method and laws of evidence. We founded the college system.”

“We are Catholic. Welcome home.”

Leaders at the Catholic Diocese of Savannah are hoping the ad campaign speaks to the estimated 10 percent of the population who describe themselves as former Catholics.

The video is one of up to 30 different television commercials set to air on network and cable television throughout the state from Dec. 17 to Jan. 23. Commercials will be broadcast in English and in Spanish.

The 30-second to two-minute advertisements were created by CatholicsComeHome.org , a Roswell-based organization founded by former advertising executive Tom Peterson.

“A bunch of us lay Catholics started this because we’ve had a reversion in our faith and we want to share this joy we have now with our family, friends and neighbors,” Peterson said.

The commercials have aired in 13 dioceses and archdioceses around the country.

Peterson said more than 200,000 former Catholics have “come home,” as well as new converts, because of the ads.

“It has increased Mass attendance by more than 10 percent in dioceses that have partnered with us,” he said.

To measure its impact, diocesan leaders are asking parishes to compare Mass attendances this October to next October’s numbers.

The Catholic Diocese of Savannah and the Archdiocese of Atlanta separately solicited donations to pay for the ads to run at the same time throughout the state.
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Please Keep the Diocese of Savannah, and all of our CCH Diocesan Partners in Your Prayers as they Prepare for these Important Evangelization Initiatives!
Learn more about bringing CatholicsComeHome.org TV commercials to your diocese

Diocese of Savannah GA Preparing to Launch CatholicsComeHome.org This Advent!

The Diocese of Savannah, Georgia is preparing for the launch of their CatholicsComeHome.org partner initiative this Advent.  Fr. Douglas Clark, a priest of the Diocese of Savannah, shared his commitment to the initiative through a recent article in the Diocese’s newspaper the Southern Cross:

Home

Southern Cross Online Edition

The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah

By Father Douglas K. Clark, STL

Very soon, during Advent 2010, the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Atlanta, will sponsor a “media blitz” called “CatholicsComeHome.org” in Georgia. The centerpiece of this blitz will be the broadcasting of a series of television spots, in English and Spanish, inviting Catholics who have given up the regular practice of the faith to consider “coming home.”

Some dioceses that have sponsored “Catholics Come Home” have reported astonishing numbers of people showing up at Sunday Masses in the wake of the telecasts. One Western diocese estimates that an additional 90,000 people attended Mass in the weeks following the broadcasts. There is no doubt that the television spots are very attractive and appealing to “fallen away” Catholics and, indeed, to others who may be interested in our ancient tradition.

But the ultimate success or failure of “Catholics Come Home” will rest not on the television spots but on the reception that those who heed them will receive when they show up in our parishes. The Diocese of Savannah has already begun a series of workshops for “Ministers of First Impressions” (clergy, religious, parish staff members, ushers, greeters and so on), to help them prepare to offer a warm welcome to returning Catholics.
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Please join the Catholics Come Home® apostolate in praying for all of those away from the faith who will receive an invitation, via a commercial on their TV screen, to return “home” to Christ’s Catholic Church this Advent!