Initiative for fallen away Catholics

A great initiative reported by ZENIT:

Chicago-Area Dioceses to Invite Catholics Home

Ad Campaign to Span 21 Counties, 357 Parishes

By Genevieve Pollock

CHICAGO, DEC. 4, 2009 ( The local parish communities of the Chicago, Joliet and Rockford dioceses are joining forces to invite and welcome Catholics "back home," launching a media campaign that will span the 21 counties of Northern Illinois.

Father Richard Hynes, director of the Chicago Archdiocese’s Office for Evangelization, explained to ZENIT that the tri-diocesan initiative will run from Dec. 16 to Jan. 24, with ads appearing on all the major television networks throughout the area in English, Polish and Spanish, inviting fallen away Catholics to return to their parish "homes."

The initiative is part of the Catholics Come Home program, which has already been run in several dioceses around the country and will soon be brought to a national level, as well as to Australia.

This Christmas season, the ads will target their largest market in an area that numbers some 3.4 million Catholics.

Father Hynes reported that the project, which has been a year in preparation, has received a great response from pastors and parishes. Of the 357 parishes in the archdiocese, he said, there are currently 320 who have a "contact person" who is "on the ground," coordinating with the evangelization office to make this initiative effective on a local level.

Imagine such a program in, say, Washington DC, focused on Congress…


Seriously… imagine such a campaign in every diocese.

Think of the number of fallen away Catholics there are.

Every single one of you knows a fallen away or poorly practicing Catholic.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Sieber says:

    Let us pray that it be harkened to even by some who proclaim it.

  2. Melania says:

    I have seen the ads for theis campaign, produced by Tom Peterson and his colleagues. They’re quite good. I understand that such a campaign has been tried out in several dioceses in the country already. I think one was Phoenix. The response was impressive, with thousands of people contacting local parishes. The important part of such a campaign would be to assure that the catechists, etc. in the local parishes were ready for the influx and were orthodox and well trained.

    I’m not sure such a campaign would be a good idea in my area at the present time as I shudder to think of the reception returning Catholics would receive in some parishes. Sad to say.

    Congratulations, howver, to Chicago. I pray for complete success with the campaign.

  3. DetJohn says:

    This is great. It should have been sooner. I agree with Fr. Z that the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. should get on board with special focus on catholics in Congress.

    I would hope that all dioceses invite back those who have gone over to the SSPX by making the TLM available and at reasonable locations and times.

  4. Will D. says:

    The Diocese of Colorado Springs is beginning this program as well. It sounds promising, but I haven’t seen any of the ads yet.

  5. Craig says:

    I think this program is AWESOME! Agree with Melania though…these hungry Souls must be well fed on their return to the Lord’s Supper.

    The Diocese of Green Bay is doing the same thing during Lent 2010.

    At this point, if this produces good fruit…it should be tried at the national level.

  6. Hans says:

    I’ve seen them too, Melania, and not only are they well put together, but it seems they were carefully thought out.

    Unfortunately, response at the parish level to this initiative here has been parochial in the worst sense. Some parishes have embraced it, while others have done little more than notice it, and others seem to be running away from it (though I only know of such parishes second-hand).

    At the Newman Center where I teach there has been a positive attitude toward the idea, but there is also resistance to making the institutional changes that would make that attitude translate into more than a short-term program. So far, it seems to be paperwork before people. Still, there has been a better response than in my parish.

    Downtown they have said they have pretty limited expectations of a few percent returning (that would still be more than a few tens of thousands), but I’ll be happy if it strengthens the resolve of the once-in-a-while Catholics, who come more than C&E, but not weekly.

    But don’t mind me; the end of the semester puts me in a pessimistic mood.

  7. robtbrown says:

    The apostolate to lapsed Catholics was/is one of the activities of the Legion of Mary.

  8. JFrater says:

    Is this really going to help? Many of the lapsed Catholics have lapsed because of the changes in the Church – the “new” Church, so to speak, is not “home” any longer – why would the people go back to it? When tradition is firmly established in the majority of dioceses, these sorts of programs will bear much fruit. For now, I am skeptical.

  9. Bill in Texas says:

    This campaign is well underway in the Diocese of Dallas. I believe the Bishop launched it in October.

  10. Rob Cartusciello says:

    My uncle >>dragged<< his father in law to one of these meetings.

    The FiL was so mad about it that he threatened to walk out, but agreed to attend one meeting and make his own decision.

    The FiL passed away about ten years later. At the wake he was proudly wearing his “church usher” lapel pin in the coffin, and there was a prominent pictureboard of him serving as usher the past ten years.

    It was one of the things he was proudest of in all his life. He was also a near-daily communicant.

    Sometimes just a little nudge is all it takes.

  11. MikeM says:

    Last Lent, Baltimore had a campaign to encourage separated Catholics to come to Confession. Every Parish had confession at a specified time during the week (usually in addition to whatever time they usually had scheduled. This was advertised on billboards, the sides of busses, etc.

    I don’t know how the response was on the whole, but I talked to a few people who were brought back to the Church by it.

  12. Bill in Texas says:

    To the skeptics:

    Sometimes, all you have to do is ask someone to come to church with you. You know that’s how the Protestants recruit both “occasional” and fallen-away Catholics.

    If you don’t ask, you will never know what good you might do, and the fallen-away will never understand that the Catholic Church is ready, waiting, and longing for their return.

    There is more than one kind of hardness of heart, you know. Don’t be so hard-hearted that you miss the chance to help make God very happy, and to be part of the cause of great rejoicing in Heaven.

  13. Melania says:

    I think these campaigns can be very effective. I am thinking of some Mormon ads that I’ve read about. However, I repeat what I said before. It is of vital importance that there are good people to receive these returning Catholics at the parish level. If not, the campaign will have minimal effect.

  14. onesheep says:

    Is this really going to help? Many of the lapsed Catholics have lapsed because of the changes in the Church – the “new” Church, so to speak, is not “home” any longer – why would the people go back to it? When tradition is firmly established in the majority of dioceses, these sorts of programs will bear much fruit. For now, I am skeptical.

    I agree, it’s only going to work if you have Priests and Bishops who are not bucking tradition and are squarely and firmly in line with the Vatican. It doesn’t help if you have a diocese full of priests like Cardinal Mahony and his ilk. In those cases it takes a lot of searching to find a parish and/or a Priest that isn’t celebrating Mass as if it were a show or treating people looking for traditional services as if they are pariah.

  15. canonlawyer says:

    The Archdiocese of Seattle will conduct this program in Lent. Raising funds was simple, because the ads are so compelling. There is extensive training for a team in each parish to be prepared for those who want to come home. In our Tribunal, which I direct, we are gearing up for an increased number of petitions. The program is both honest and pastoral about marriage issues, and portrays our process as pro-marriage, which it is. Of course, for some people, the reason they left the Church will still be the reason they decide against returning, but my conviction is that truth IS pastoral. I am all for this campaign.

  16. chcrix says:

    ” the “new” Church, so to speak, is not “home” any longer – why would the people go back to it? ”

    I agree. I don’t think I would have made it back without the relatively nearby TLM Oratory. NO just wouldn’t have cut it I’m afraid.

    Of course there are many many more who left after the NO was solidly ensconsced.

  17. JFrater says:

    I returned because I went to a traditional Mass (which I had never seen before being raised a novus ordo Catholic). I have not stepped foot in a novus order parish since.

    Also, in response to Bill who seems to be calling me hard hearted (which is utterly ridiculous and illogical), I take non-Catholic or lapsed-Catholic friends with me to Mass (but only the traditional Mass) so I am doing what I can do to help. I simply don’t think that trying to “market” to get people to go to the new Mass will bear fruit – the Mass itself seems to bear little or not fruit in itself. It will eventually die out (as we are seeing now) and the Bishops will have no choice but to restore tradition. It is just a shame that they don’t see that yet.

  18. In my particular county, a large percentage of the population is Catholic. U
    It seems to me, however, that most of them are lapsed or cultural Catholics who don’t attend church on a regular basis. We need something like this in our diocese, but I wonder what the response would be to such an intitiatve.

    I’m certain that some of our younger priests would probably take it up and run with it as fast as they can, but I also worry about hte diocesan administration here.

  19. ckdexterhaven says:

    I hang my head in shame as I write this. I’m not crazy about my liberal neighbor. I have never been rude to them, always say hi, and wave. BUT, after 2 years of neighborness, I just found out they’re both fallen away Catholics. They were married in this church, but haven’t attended in years. I feel bad, b/c they see me and family going to church every week, and daily Mass. Yet, I may be the only Catholic they know hasn’t been real friendly. No amount of tv ads will be able to cancel out their “personal” view of a practicing Catholic. I’m going to remedy the situation, and invite them to Mass. (and change my attitude…)

    The moral of the story is, don’t discount the personal touch. You may be the only Catholic someone knows. You may know someone and not know they’re Catholic. Don’t make the mistake I have made. :(

  20. tzard says:

    A few years ago, our fair city faced the prospect of doubling in size – a huge suburban area opening up which would greatly increase the amount of people in our parish boundaries.

    Sad to say, I got the impression our pastor didn’t want more people to come. He created committees to address potential issues, as all the masses are normally mostly full. One really got the impression he hoped nobody would come over.

    The result, unfortunately are the same number of masses with almost the same number of people. (Initially people stood along the walls once the pews were full, but no more). A Huge renovation of the church happened, which only reduced the number of pews to put in some fancy modern baptistery.

    What would happen if everyone *did* decide to come back? My opinion is we’d deal with it gladly. Sadly there are others who hope that won’t happen for merely logistical (read: Human) reasons.

  21. The point is that _we don’t know_ what fruit this program will bear. That’s not our problem. Our problem is to evangelize and re-evangelize, to teach and re-teach, to do our best — and at the very least, show the good Lord some minimal cooperation!

    I know I’m a horrible failure as an evangelist, and have probably hurt more than I help. But I’m a socially inept idiot. The rest of you are supposed to make up for me, not make excuses for why you shouldn’t even bother to try. ;)

    That said, I agree that pastors should always have some sort of plan in mind for having more people than they expect, in case God sends them tons of newbies or Catholics moving into town. If we always assume the worst will happen and that the parish is going to maintain the status quo or keep winding down, it begins to look ungrateful and presumptuous.

  22. Girgadis says:

    suburbanbanshee you made me LOL. NO one is a more socially inept idiot than me. A few years ago our pastor charged every one of us with inviting just one person to Mass. I did my part by emailing my neighbors. One of them actually said yes. I have not seen her at Mass since, but for all I know, she goes to another church.

    We have a lot of A & P Catholics in our parish – ashes and palm. I think Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday are greatly overlooked opportunities to lure lapsed Catholics back. I read about a parish that used these holy days, as well as weddings and Christenings, to leave little invitations on the pews inviting stray Catholics back to church. Supposedly, they had some success with this approach. I’d be interested to know what priests think of it.

  23. chironomo says:

    It would seem to me, given the effort that has gone into these programs, that they surely did their research and polling to find out “why” fallen away Catholics have…well…fallen away. Where is this research? What reasons did fallen away Catholcis give for leaving or more likely just losing interest? I only ask because if such a program like this were to be considered at my parish, the Parish Council members would mostly assume that the problem was that the church wasn’t “welcoming” enough, and what was needed was more lively music, more activities and “participation” by the laity…which would be a fine solution if in fact the lack of those things was the reason this huge number of people left. My instinct tells me that those aren’t the reasons though. What fundamental assumptions about fallen away Catholics are at the fondation of this program? Does anybody out there know?

  24. I’m the chair of the Rockford Diocese Initiative and we are very excited about this chance to do what the Church should always do–evangelize and welcome back the lost. For those who want to see the ads, check out youtube for Catholics Come Home “Epic”, “Movie”, and “Testimony”–the names of the three ads. Or check my blog for a quicker look. This is a well-co-ordinated effort in the tri-diocesan area and will reach upwards of 4-8 million people. Should be great. Check out our diocesan website at

  25. About the question of why Catholics fall away. The research is complete and sound. Again, check our website and look for the homily helps which include sidebars of the research. Bottom line–people leave for a lot of reasons but one of the biggest: priorities–they just drift. Sad but true, but also good news there. Many don’t have an angry agenda and they are open to be persuaded. The follow up program to the initiative in our diocese is called “Catholics Returning Home”. We are targeting Ash Wednesday as the kick-off and as a great time to emphasize renewal and return.

  26. rinkevichjm says:

    Well they are the second largest group of (pseudo-) Christians in the nation and they have no one who will complain about it either. The Catholic Church should be targeting them for conversion.

  27. Melania says:

    Msgr. Eric R. Barr
    I looked at your website. Looks pretty good. I wish for you and pray that you have great success with this campaign. I would like to know the results. Will you post them anywhere?

  28. Cory says:

    The Joliet Diocese has several parishes that are extremely orthodox, and being in the suburbs, this will greatly help in getting the message out since those parishes have very high memberships. St. Mary’s in Mokena and Ss. Peter and Paul in Naperville are several churches that are drawing more and more people into the fold. This diocese has been on the up and up ever since Bishop Sartain arrived here back in ’06.

  29. Melania: Be glad to post results. We will be doing Mass attendance comparisons with last October and also numbers of those joining Catholics Returning Home followup program. Thanks for your interest.

  30. DominiSumus says:

    Thanks to a generous anonymous donation, the Diocese of Providence has just begin the Year of Evangelization in which the Catholic Come Home ad will air on local television stations. Parishes are also encouraged to develop their own outreach and to participate in diocesan inititives.

  31. Anne M. says:

    I returned to the Church four years ago through a parish program for fallen away Catholics. I’m not old enough to remember the TLM and having been away from the Church for 25 years, I didn’t know the difference between a liberal or conservative parish, so I ended up registering at the liberal parish that offered the program. It took me about six months to figure out that was not where I needed to be and I then found a nice conservative parish. The key for me was that the people in the program were friendly and I had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions.

  32. Melania says:

    Thank you, Msgr. Barr. I’ll put it in my calendar.

  33. MOP says:

    I agree with JFrater: what kind of Church will lapsed Catholics find? The Joliet Diocese is on the rebound with Bishop Sartain, but many of the new Churches just built in that Diocese have no kneelers, still “in the round” and with no evidence of a tabernacle. On the Holy Spirit Catholic Community (that is the name of the Church) website, here is the explanation of the tabernacle and its use: My husband and I go to Mass all over the world, and I have yet to find such a distortion of the liturgy as I have in the three Masses I attended in Naperville and Warrenville, IL this last October and February. God Bless you, Bishop Sartain. You sure have your work cut out for you!!

  34. IL Catholic says:

    MOP– it depends on the church (unfortunately!) some are great, like sts. peter and paul. and some are well… not.

    Our pastor gave an excellent homily on this initiative last Sunday… He’s hoping that he’ll have to start hiring policemen to direct traffic again. It’s possible, my parish used to do it back in the 90’s.

    Please pray for its success.

  35. I agree there are still many problem parishes and pastors in the Joliet diocese. I visit there often as my aunt and uncle live in Naperville.

    One Sunday I had the unfortunate experience of attending Mass at St. Thomas in Naperville. There were about 15 lay people in the sanctuary during the consecration, the Creed was replaced by a song in which people shouted “Yes, We Believe!,” and the “choir” included several dancing/swaying members who must have thought they were at a rock concert rather than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To top it off, the priest commented during his Homily about how great things were when he entered the seminary in the late 1960’s and how those days were such an “exciting time of change in the Church.”

    The bishop in Joliet has a lot more work to do….

  36. BillH says:

    Just a note about the Diocese of Colorado Springs initiative… the ads will air Dec. 18-Jan. 18.

  37. IL Catholic says:

    Justin in Ohio-

    I remember my family going to St. Thomas for Mass once. Little IL Catholic asked his parents on the car ride home, “was that really Mass?” I’m saddened to hear it’s still bad over there.

    Just a hint, try going to Sts. Peter and Paul’s Masses. ;)

    And please say a prayer for bishop Sartain. Thanks!

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