Thursday, March 26, 2009

Clarion Call: Catholics Come Home

A few weeks ago I mused on my own belief in this Catholic Myth: the Church doesn't advertise.

The basic preconception I had was: if you're Catholic you go to a Catholic Church, no question -- that's just how it is. I was surprised then when Washington Apb. Wuerl hit the airwaves with the Maybe It's God campaign.

So now I was a little better prepared to read the CNS report of the Phoenix media blitz which recalled upwards of 92,000 Catholics to the pews.
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.

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.
This is obviously good news to have so many new and fallen away Catholics returning home where they can experience the sacraments and the love of the Church for them and their eternal welfare. It's always exciting when people encounter God directly -- I could tell stories -- or through the ordinary ministers of grace in the Church. Many, many people are simply waiting for an invitation, an apology, or an offer to reconcile themselves. There will always be those who reject everything and choose to live in their bitterness, as evidenced by such pejoratives as recovering Catholic, but in the final analysis methinks the lady doth protest too much.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. The part that caught my eye was the use of the term "groundbreaking" to describe the Phoenix campaign. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines groundbreaking as: markedly innovative. Hey, that means that nobody has done this before, right? As in, this is new and different.

Ok, so a little double-jointed pat on the back for recognizing that this is out of the norm. The Church traditionally hasn't advertised using the media. This is new ground here people: I mean even the Pope has a YouTube channel these days!

But even this new media blitz for the Church isn't quite the same as marketing; it's evangelistic, teaching; it's care for souls, restoration and reconciliation -- not "come to our Church because we've got bingo and great music". The closest we get to the hard sell is usually the annual Bishop's Lenten Appeal.
"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.'"

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