By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published September 30, 2010
“An extraordinary undertaking” is how Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory describes Catholics Come Home Georgia, a program of evangelization to welcome people to the Catholic Church. The program will kick off in December with a statewide media campaign and a plethora of parishioners ready to welcome home inactive Catholics and non-Catholics to their church communities.
Archbishop Gregory said, “During Advent … the Church in the Archdiocese of Atlanta is undertaking a dramatic initiative to invite and welcome back our brothers and sisters who have been away from the church.”
This collaborative effort between the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Diocese of Savannah, and nonprofit CatholicsComeHome.org incorporates compelling, professionally produced television commercials about the Catholic faith, airing on major television networks in the state, combined with parish programs preparing people to welcome those returning to or seeking information from the Catholic Church. A website, www.catholicscomehomegeorgia.org, has been created in support of parish efforts.
The commercials, created by the CatholicsComeHome.org, were developed with a particular emphasis on encouraging people to come back to the Catholic Church or to learning about the church for the first time. The ads are set to air from mid-December through late January, with the goal of reaching millions of viewers during that time.
Catholics can get involved in the campaign in ways both financial and personal.
Deacon Swope said, “The initial financial outlay for the advertising will run just under $400,000,” which is being funded by gifts generated by personal appeals made by Archbishop Gregory and the generosity of the people of the archdiocese of Atlanta through a second collection in October.
Estimated costs for the commercials range from $250 for a 30-second commercial during the early morning news on a major television network to $2,000 for one commercial during prime time programming. Purchasing one day of ads on major cable networks costs an estimated $1,000, while a full day of news spots on a network channel can cost up to $5,000.
Deacon Steve Swope noted, “Each of us can support the return of Catholics back to the church by providing support to this initiative in the form of prayer and financial contributions. We may never know exactly how many lives are touched by this evangelization effort or how many return to the faith.”
He believes that Catholics can help in three significant ways: through welcoming, prayer and financial support. First, he said, “They can be welcoming of the strangers in our midst. Often the person that is a stranger to us is a son, daughter, parent or friend of someone in the parish or a neighbor. When we visit a place we have been away from, we can feel connected and part of the community if we are welcomed with a smile, a greeting and warmth. We will have Catholics returning to virtually every parish so this welcoming is not only essential but it is our job as Catholic Christians.”
Secondly, Deacon Swope asked for Catholics to pray for those who are returning as well as those who will be welcoming and working with those returning. And finally, he said that organizers ask for the “generous financial support of the Catholics in the Archdiocese. …We know that in these difficult financial times there are many demands on our financial resources and many very worthy causes. We believe that Catholics Come Home Georgia is among those worthy causes because at its core it is all about bringing people to Christ and Christ to people—it is evangelization in action.”
Parishioners can sign up to become “ministers of first impression” and will receive training to welcome those who call in after viewing one of the commercials.
Upcoming training sessions for all ministers of first impression, including priests, deacons, faith formation staff, teachers, parish staff, ushers and others, will take place in November. The training will be held in Kenny Hall at the Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and Thursday, Nov. 11. On both days, the sessions will be held in English from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. and in Spanish from 2 to 4 p.m.
In summarizing the motivation for this campaign, Deacon Swope put it simply: “We are doing this for one reason, to welcome our brothers and sisters in faith back home to the Catholic Church. If they have been away for a little while for any reason, we want to invite them to have another look and give us an opportunity to welcome them back.”
He added, “We miss them, and our faith community isn’t complete without them.”
Based in Atlanta, Catholics Come Home, Inc., is an independent, nonprofit Catholic apostolate that creates compassionate media messages, broadcast in the U.S. and around the world, to inspire, educate and evangelize inactive Catholics and others. For more information, go to www.catholicscomehome.org. For more information about the archdiocesan program, go to www.catholicscomehomegeorgia.org. For more information on how to donate to the campaign, go to www.archatl.com/aaa/how-to-give.html. For more information about the training sessions or to register, contact the Office of Formation and Discipleship at (404) 885-7413 or firstname.lastname@example.org.