Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Jan
  • 12

Inviting Catholics home

Posted By January 12, 2012 | 1:35 pm | Lead Story #2, Local
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By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

WEBSTER – Catholics Come Home is a nationwide advertising campaign directed at fallen-away Catholics.
It’s been enormously successful, according to its founder, Tom Peterson, who came back to the faith in 1997, following a spiritual retreat.
He has since launched a website – www.catholicscomehome.org – that includes testimonials from other people who’ve also returned to Mass.
This past Christmas, for the first time, his organization aired a series of television commercials during prime-time on the major networks.  According to the website, the purpose of the media messages is to “inspire, educate and evangelize inactive Catholics and others.”
“It’s new, it’s exciting,” said Peterson, who added that Jesus told us to spread the Gospel.
Are people actually coming back to Mass as a result of advertising?
Reports from various parts of the country, where the program is active, are encouraging. The Diocese of Corpus Christi in Texas saw an overall 17 percent increase in Mass attendance, according to the Catholics Come Home website. And the Archdiocese of Phoenix, Arizona saw attendance rise 12 percent.
Locally, Sacred Heart of Jesus in Webster has also implemented the Catholics Come Home program.
This effort was started by its previous pastor, Father Michael J. Roy, and continued by its current pastor, Father Adam Reid.
“I give great credit to Father Roy who saw the great opportunity the Catholics Come Home initiative presented last year,” said Father Reid.
Father Roy, noted Father Reid, had built an evangelization team comprised of people who love the faith and want to share it.
The effort to draw newcomers has been ongoing.
During Advent, two large signs were placed on parish-owned property across the street from Sacred Heart. On the signs was printed “Catholics Come Home” and “Sacred Heart of Jesus Welcomes You.” There was also a parish telephone number and web site address.
The signs were ordered last year from Catholics Come Home. This year, large posters with the same message were created by downloading a Catholics Come Home template. The posters were hung in the church, the parish hall and the school gymnasium.
Father Reid said the parish hall and gymnasium are “truly areas of opportunity” because not everyone who visits is a practicing Catholic. School sporting events draw a wide range of people, as do various functions in the hall.
The signage may move them or at least cause them to reflect upon their faith, Father Reid said.
Inside Sacred Heart, Father Reid and the evangelization team, placed pamphlets that explain what the Church teaches.
In another effort to be welcoming, the parish has published a new directory of ministries. For instance, there is a perpetual adoration chapel and a very active and long-standing St. Vincent de Paul Society.
The Saint Vincent de Paul society, while feeding the poor, also serves indirectly to evangelize, explained Father Reid.
“People get to see the face of Christ in that ministry,” Father Reid said.
He wants that love of Christ to also be seen in the warm welcome newcomers receive from greeters at the entrances. Father Reid said this is of the utmost importance.
“I think that the Church has to develop innovative ways to reach out to Catholics and non-Catholics alike and, at the same time, seek to ensure that when guests arrive at the doors of the church we do all that we can to give them an experience of worship that will lend itself to them wanting to return to the Church,” he stated.
“Among other things, ensuring the greeters are welcoming and hospitable and are helpful if the guests have any needs,” he added.
Father Reid sees the greeters acting as a “liaison” between the pastor and the visitors, and then being ready to introduce interested newcomers to the pastor.
The greeters can also direct people to the various ministries or supply them with registration forms if they wish to join the parish, he said.
It’s too soon to tell what, if any, effect this has had in drawing people back to Sacred Heart of Jesus this past Christmas.
The parish did a pew count last year, and it has scheduled another for the near future.
“It could well be that it’s more of a gradual impact it will have over time,” said Father Reid.
So far, no one has approached him and said it was the signs that brought them back to Mass.