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Ad man in battle of 'spiritual warfare' to bring Catholics 'home'

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placeholder May 4, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA
Ad man in battle of 'spiritual warfare'
to bring Catholics 'home'

Tom Peterson
courtesy Catholics Come Home/cns

A contemporary Catholic advertising apostolate that has run TV ads in nearly 40 U.S. markets now hopes to air ads across the country during Pope Francis' U.S. visit this fall.

"Catholics Come Home" is a lay evangelization effort that employs contemporary television advertising to reach inactive Catholics.

Speaking at the April Catholics@Work breakfast in Danville, CCH President Tom Peterson cautioned that "the spiritual battle is getting tougher."

The CCH ad blitz will air during the Pope's visit, when awareness of and interest in Catholicism is likely to be high. If CCH follows its past pattern, the ads will be comparable in quality to the most compelling commercial ads, with powerful, clear messages and strong graphics.

One of its strongest ads appeared before the 2013 Alabama-Notre Dame college football championship. It featured former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz alone in a locker room emphasizing the importance of his faith.

Typically CCH runs short-term ad blitzes in local television markets, seeking to reach non-involved Catholics. CCH has run 38 diocese-centered campaigns, most recently in Buffalo, N.Y., where 1,700 ads ran in a month around last Christmas.

Archbishop Emeritus Alex J. Brunett of Seattle supported a CCH campaign there in 2010. Brunett temporarily served the Oakland diocese prior to the appointment of Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, in 2013.

"Many of our pastors reported significant numbers of individuals contacting them about returning to the Church because of the ads, and our Easter service in 2010 experienced larger crowds than at any time in recent memory," Brunett said at the time, estimating that 6,000 people returned to Church.

The Sacramento diocese ran a CCH ad blitz at Christmas 2009. More than 2,000 TV ads ran and parishes reported higher Mass attendance and more inquiries. The diocese maintains a welcoming website from it, http://welcomehomenorcal.com.

Peterson was a successful advertising executive when he experienced a powerful message during a diocesan retreat. Feeling that "we Catholics need to be bolder in sharing our faith," he gave up his business and started CCH seven years ago. As an ad man he understood the power of contemporary media and sought to harness it "to help us feel comfortable asking people to come back."

Asked how ordinary Catholics can help bring people back to the faith, Peterson suggested several ways.

His simplest suggestion is, when people ask "how are you?" respond, "I'm blessed, how are you?" The conversation can easily grow from there.

Relatively few Catholic outreach efforts compete in the powerful contemporary media. A few have made an impact, including Very Rev. Robert Barron's strong "Catholicism" series.

Peterson observed that atheist groups have recently run ads "telling us to just not care about God."

It does not make sense for people who do not believe in God to advertise against him, Peterson observed.

But it does show how tough the fight against God is in contemporary society. "This is spiritual warfare," he warned.

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