A new evangelizing tool for the Catholic Church: “Catholics Come Home” may be exactly what is needed to spur lapsed or departed Catholics to return and resume active participation. On its own website this new evangelizing tool, explains further that “Catholics Come Home” is “an independent, non-profit Catholic apostolate”. The announced goals of “Catholics Come Home” are to improve the understanding of, and response to, the faith message of the Catholic Church. While the message of “Catholics Come Home” is prepared for an audience filled with practicing Catholics and non Catholics, it is especially meant for those who once belonged inside the fold of Catholicism but have lapsed, wandered or severed their relationship with the institutional church. .
The Timing. If you have kept abreast of the ongoing events of the Catholic Church in the last two decades you can’t help but recognize the crisis of membership that has occurred. The combination of priestly sex abuse scandals; the enabling of abusers by those in positions of power who turned the other way and let the abuse continue elsewhere; the astronomical expense imposed on the church to handle the legal fall-out of the myriad acts of abuse and the countless church closings that have cut people off from their traditional spiritual home have all added up to near catastrophe for many in the ranks.
While many Catholics have remained loyal to the faith of their childhood, others have found its behaviors intolerable, disgusting and insupportable. According the records compiled by “Catholics Come Home” only 33% of baptized U. S. Catholics attend mass regularly. Some 100,000 drift away from Church membership each year. Additionally there are endless stories of those Catholics who have left and found a spiritual home in another Christian church or have simply abandoned organized religion all together.
The Response of the Hierarchy. The response of the Catholic leadership to the dwindling number of Catholic faithful has been to actively pursue a course of evangelizing. This means the Church has sought to reach out to those with limited interest in the faith, re-educate those who may lack an understanding of Church teachings and positions and re-connect with those who perhaps were once regular participants in parish life but then opted out. .
The leadership has determined that not only is it important to concentrate on evangelizing to a greater degree but that it is also important to employ different, more inspiring and more effective evangelizing tools. Enter: “Catholics Come Home”.
How “Catholics Come Home” Works. The “Catholics Come Home” evangelizing approach takes full advantage of two highly popular communication devices – television and the computer.
Acknowledging the national effectiveness of television in connecting with millions of households, “Catholics Come Home” uses well placed television spots to reach huge audiences of potential Church returnees and encourages them to take an important first step in the process of re-connecting with the faith. “Catholics Come Home” directs those who see its brief television presentations to follow up by going to the organization website.
Once on the site, inquirers will have the chance to review the whole menu of Church teachings, the Church position on areas of special interest to the reader and where the Church stands on controversial issues like abortion, birth control and homosexuality. The goal, of course, is to spark an interest on the part of readers, to encourage them to reconnect and in time to return to the comfort of their own home parish .
Results. On its website “Catholics Come Home” holds up examples of the success of its process. Programs run by “Catholics Come Home” appear to have been instrumental in bringing back healthy per centages of church goers in the dioceses of Phoenix, Arizona and Corpus Christi, Texas where double digit returns have been substantiated.
But perhaps its more telling challenge will be conducted when “Catholics Come Home” is fully implemented in the Archdiocese of Boston during Lent 2011. According to records listed on the website of the Catholic hierarchy Boston is the 4th largest archdiocese in the nation with more than 2 million adherents. But it is not just its size that makes the Archdiocese of Boston pivotal in determining the success of “Catholics Come Home”. Boston was the setting for some of the ugliest and most prolonged cases of sexual abuse to surface in the last two decades. Boston Catholics by the thousands also suffered the pain of losing their traditional place of worship as the Archdiocese carried out large scale church closings, to help shore up Archdiocesan finances. .
If “Catholics Come Home” can work in the Archdiocese of Boston, the universal Church may indeed have found its evangelizing tool of choice for the future both here in the United States and abroad. In the meantime, “Catholics Come Home” continues to faithfully reach out with welcoming words and helpful information for anyone willing to listen.