The archdiocese launched the ambitious “Catholics Come Home” project on Ash Wednesday, and the Boston Herald takes a look at how it’s doing:
The Boston Archdiocese’s largest effort in a generation to reach lapsed Catholics is drawing wandering souls back to the church’s open arms, but the biggest obstacle could be keeping them, priests and parishioners say.
The archdiocese, still suffering fallout from the clergy sex abuse crisis and parish closings, is hoping to bring back thousands of the formerly faithful through Catholics Come Home, a series of TV ads airing during Lent, coupled with a grass-roots push at parishes. Fewer than 20 percent of Catholics in the Boston area attend Mass each Sunday, down from nearly 80 percent in the 1960s.
“I was doing laundry and that stopped me in my tracks, that made me cry,” said Jackeline Rolon, 36, who was so moved by one of the TV ads she started going to Mass at St. Stephen’s in Framingham. She stopped going to church when she was 15. But the ad drew a flood of memories of her grandma, who walked her to church every Sunday in her native Puerto Rico, and her late father, a devout Catholic.“I know that from heaven he is the one pulling me back to the church,” she said of her dad, Guillermo Rolon.
The most visible components of the $600,000 campaign are the emotional TV ads, lasting up to two minutes and reaching 95 percent of Boston-area TV viewers.
Inside church walls, priests and parishioners are ushering in greeters, welcome tables and a new spirit of acceptance. Parishioners are encouraged to bring a friend or relative who has fallen away.
“Before we just waited for the people to come to the church. Now we see a lot aren’t coming. It behooves us to reach out to them and tell them we want them to be part of our family,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley told the Herald. “My hope is that this effort will help our Catholics to feel more responsible to invite, to welcome, to be an evangelical community.”
The push comes as fewer and fewer Catholics are going to Mass. Only about 300,000 of the 1.7 million Catholics in the archdiocese attend Mass on Sunday. In the 1960s, some 1.3 million of the 1.7 million Catholics in the archdiocese regularly attended.
The archdiocese could see as much as a 10 percent bump in Mass attendance, based on success of similar campaigns across the country. The campaign was launched on Ash Wednesday and runs until Easter.