An estimated 92,000 inactive Catholics in the Phoenix Diocese have come back to the church in the last year thanks in large part to a groundbreaking television advertising campaign called Catholics Come Home.This is what the new evangelization is all about - reaching out to fallen-away Catholics with new approaches and renewed fervor. Wonderful! I have previously written about this program and the quality of the production. If you haven't seen their website or video, I HIGHLY recommend them.
The promotional spots featured people and locations from around the Phoenix Diocese to promote the church during prime-time television. The cornerstone of the campaign, the Catholics Come Home Web site, addresses often misunderstood aspects of the faith.
"For those who had fallen away from the practice of their faith, it let them know that we want them to come home," Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said.
The commercials, which ran during Lent in 2008, detail the good works of the Catholic Church throughout history. They also offer real-life testimonials of local fallen-away Catholics explaining what turned them away and what drew them back.
"Phoenix was supposed to be this quiet little test," said Tom Peterson, a former resident of Phoenix who is president and founder of Catholics Come Home, which is now based in Georgia.
"Word went worldwide as soon as you launched," he said in an interview with the Phoenix diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Sun.
More than half a million different visitors from all 50 states and 80 countries have visited the Web site catholicscomehome.com since the spots first aired.
The response was so positive that other dioceses around the country are looking to Phoenix for ideas on bringing Catholics back to the church.
The Diocese of Corpus Christi in Texas recently launched different versions of the television spots in English and Spanish. Each parish supplemented the commercials at Ash Wednesday services with a brochure for everyone answering common faith-related questions and listing Mass times and ministries.
The Catholics Come Home spots will appear in more than a dozen other dioceses around the country later in 2009 or early 2010. By the time Advent rolls around in 2010, organizers say they'll go national on major networks.
Check out these numbers:
Six months after the media campaign ended, a comprehensive analysis of its impact revealed a 22 percent increase in Mass attendance at nine sample parishes. Throughout the diocese, the average increased Mass attendance -- returned and new Catholics -- was 12 percent. That's despite a flat population growth in the diocese during that period.
"Wherever they've been, they can come back home. It's a message that resonates," Hanning said. "I never thought I'd have thousands of Catholics calling and e-mailing me and saying, 'I'm proud to be Catholic and I want to help others.'"