The Archdiocese of Atlanta partnered with Catholics Come Home® this past Advent 2010. The Archdiocese has been conducting post-initiative Mass attendance census counts, and gathering anecdotal data and “coming home” stories. The Times-Georgian reports, below:
Church attendance grows through Catholics ‘Come Home’ ad campaign
The pews in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church have been filled with more parishioners lately, due in part to a TV ad program launched in Georgia inviting Catholics who have left the church to “come home.”
Since the Catholics Come Home® Georgia campaign kicked off on Dec. 17, attendance at the church in Carroll County has increased 10 percent.
“We have over 1,200 people attending church every Sunday,” said the Rev. Rafael Carballo. “We had a good response. We also have people from other denominations that have come.”
Carballo believes the campaign served as a good reminder to people that the church is here.
“There’s nothing sweeter for people than to hear a voice come back home,” he said.
He also attributes the increase in attendance to the growth of the youth ministry. He said that when young people come to church they often bring their parents.
“I have seen a big growth in the youth ministry,” Carballo said. “At times, you think it’s mostly the adults bringing youth. The youth group has grown about 25 percent from last year into this year. It’s a more diverse group. We got people from all races so that’s creating a more positive environment for them.”
Although the ad program is over, efforts to bring Catholics home are continuing within the parishes, according to Deacon Steve Swope, who is chairman of the Catholics Come Home® Georgia steering committee. He said church leaders and lay people who do that each day that make a difference.
“The ads are over but the real work of welcoming people back is the work that is going on in the parish level now,” Swope said. “The advertisements invited those back, but the welcome they got when they came home is what made a difference.”
So far, the efforts of the church has been successful. The committee is measuring the initiative’s success in two different ways – quantitative and anecdotal. The group did a count of the number of people who attended Mass in October and another count in March just before Ash Wednesday.
It was determined that attendance rose 14 percent throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Another count will be conducted in October to make sure the increase is not a seasonal change. The committee also asked church leaders to send stories of people who have come back.
The group learned that some parishes held listening sessions to gives those who have returned a chance to meet others and ask any questions they have about coming back. Some parishes have reported four to five families coming back.
“In my own parish, I see people every week that I haven’t seen before,” Swope said. “Even if only one person came back, it would make it all worthwhile.”
The committee learned that the majority of people coming back did not leave because they were upset with the church, but because they “got lazy in their spiritual life,” he said.
Some may have left for college, stopped going to Mass and returned only when they were home with their families. They then continued to grow into adulthood, got married and did not feel the tug to go back until they had a couple of kids.
“It’s people feeling something’s missing and they come back,” Swope said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
read entire Times-Georgian article