The ad campaign is called Catholics Come Home. And Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto admits it may catch some TV viewers off guard.
“We have not always taken advantage of the electronic media in the way that we could. Catholics Come Home will be a new approach that may startle some.”
Advertisement Announcer: “For 2,000 years we’ve helped the poor and comforted the sick…”
The 30-and-60 second ads show images of the church’s impact on the world throughout the ages.
Announcer: “…we are the Catholic Church. Welcome home.”
Right now about 136,000 people go to mass in the Sacramento area each week. But the local Catholic population is estimated to be about seven-times that amount. Bishop Soto says the ads will target those lapsed Catholics…some he says have gone to other churches; others don’t go to church at all.
“My hope is that by using this medium we will touch the hearts of those who for whatever reason have left the church.”
Jacqueline Irwin is a Communications Studies Professor at Sacramento State. She says the commercials are highly-produced and do a good job of reaching some deep sentiments.
“We all know that cliché term of what Catholic guilt is. And so there’s a lot of emotional appeal. The traditional aspect of what Catholicism is and they’re long lasting history is something that most Catholics really do tie into.
The diocese is one of eight in the U.S. running the ads. Ryan Hanning is with the Phoenix Diocese which ran the ads last year. He estimates the campaign brought 90,000 Catholics back to church…although Hanning says some active churchgoers weren’t too thrilled.
“By in large most people were really excited about the campaign. But then we got those saying ‘why are we doing this? It’s sort of beneath us.’ We tried to respond the best we could that we need to use the tools that we have at our disposal to reach out to people.”
And Bishop Soto agrees. He says the diocese has an obligation to reach as many people as it can.
“St. Paul at one point says ‘shame on me if I do not speak of the gospel.’ For us today it would be ‘shame on us if we don’t make use of this very powerful media.’”
The ads are scheduled to start airing this Friday.