Imagine you're sitting in your living room. You're watching the Red Sox or the nightly news or your favorite sitcom. Suddenly, at a commercial break, a new ad comes on.
It's a commercial from Catholics Come Home, a Georgia-based non-profit of lay people who say that similar ads in a dozen American cities have helped bring 200,000 lapsed Catholics back to the church.
Catholics Come Home has partnered with the Boston archdiocese. Three of the group's ads will be airing in the Boston area during Lent in spring 2011.
In Massachusetts, Mass attendance has dropped significantly in the past 10 years, down from 376,383 attending weekly in 2000, to 286,951 in 2009. That is the decade that also witnessed the ongoing aftermath of the clergy sex-abuse crisis that first came to light in Boston.
"All of us know people who are distant from the life of the Catholic community," Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley wrote in a recent blog post about Catholics Come Home. "I've written names of people I know in a book. Co-workers at the Pastoral Center have added the first names of others. It's getting to be a long list."
Catholics Come Home founder Tom Peterson says the program has proven its effectiveness and won praise in other parts of the country. After the ads ran in Arizona, the Diocese of Phoenix reported a 12 percent increase in Mass attendance in six months.
Boston College theology professor Stephen Pope says that while a worthy effort, the media campaign does not bridge the fundamental concerns that divide disaffected Catholics from the Church.
But can a media campaign persuade lapsed Massachusetts Catholics it's time to return "home"? What is "home" for area Catholics today?
- Tom Peterson, president and founder of Catholics Come Home
- Stephen Pope, professor of theology at Boston College, and author of "Common Calling: The Laity and the Governance of the Church"