9:25 PM, Nov 28, 2012
Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr / Provided
Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr made a simple plea Wednesday to Roman Catholics who have drifted from the church.
“We miss you,” he said. “Please come home.”
Schnurr’s message was part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s launch of a TV and radio advertising campaign that church leaders hope will bring thousands of wayward Catholics back to the faith.
Schnurr said the campaign is inspired by Pope Benedict XVI and his declaration that the coming year is a “year of faith,” in which Catholics should more aggressively evangelize their religion.
It’s also part of a continuing effort to reverse a decades-long trend that has seen attendance at Sunday Mass steadily decline. About two out of three Catholics in the Cincinnati archdiocese and Covington diocese – about 300,000 people – do not regularly attend Mass.
Mass attendance is a crucial measure of the health of the church because it is the center of spiritual life for Catholics. The church teaches it’s a sin for Catholics to miss Mass and the rite of Holy Communion unless they are ill or incapacitated.
Schnurr said most Catholics who no longer attend regularly did not make a conscious decision to stay away. Instead, he said, the distractions of modern life and secular culture pulled them in another direction.
“Sometimes people drift away from the church because they simply don’t understand the teachings of the church,” Schnurr said.
He said he hopes the ad campaign will remind Catholics why their faith is important and why many may feel “a longing for something more.”
Tom Peterson, whose nonprofit Catholics Come Home produced the ads, said his experience suggests Schnurr is right. He said Mass attendance increased by an average of 10 percent in the other 33 American dioceses that have launched similar campaigns.
“The results were really amazing,” Peterson said.
The media blitz will include more than 3,000 commercials, including about 1,700 in Greater Cincinnati, with messages about the Catholic Church’s history, traditions and teachings. Some ads tout the church’s accomplishments; others feature personal testimonials from people who returned to the faith after many years. All commercials share a common theme: “If you’ve been away from the Catholic Church,” one ad says, “we invite you to take another look.”
The campaign will cost more than $200,000 and is covered by a special collection parishes took up during Mass this year. The ads will run from Dec. 14 to Jan. 20 in the Cincinnati, Dayton and Lima media markets, which cover most of the 19-county archdiocese.