Divine Providence: in Rhode Island, Catholics are coming home

Divine Providence: in Rhode Island, Catholics are coming home May 12, 2011

An evangelization effort seems to be paying off, according to the Providence Journal:

Mass counts released Thursday by the diocese show that while Mass attendance among Rhode Island’s Catholics grew by a mere 1.9 percent between October 2009 and October 2010, that reversed a decline that had been observed over a number of years, as when attendance dropped by 5 percent between 2006 and 2008.

When the diocese launched its Year of Evangelization with a series of “Catholics Come Home” commercials that aired on local TV stations between Christmas 2009 and Lent 2010, Tom Peterson, the Atlanta businessman who had raised more than $2 million to develop the spots, took note of what he said was the impact of the ads on a number of other dioceses – including a 12 percent surge in Mass attendance in the Diocese of Phoenix and a 17 percent surge in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, however, was more circumspect about the potential outcome saying early in 2010 that he could only “guess” what the counts would show.

What the numbers do show is that the results varied, with some parishes that went all out with campaigns to invite friends and neighbors back seeming to have scored some success.

The Rev. Gildardo Suarez, pastor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish on Potters Avenue in Providence’s West End, told The Journal that while attendance among the his “Anglo” parishioners held steady, he now has 350 Latino Catholics at the parish’s weekend Masses – an increase of 80 to 90 churchgoers over the year before.

“I think the year of evangelization made a difference,” the priest said in an interview. The priest said he believes “Catholics Coming Home” commercials that aired locally on Spanish- and English-speaking channels for six weeks set the stage for the campaign.

Not leaving anything to chance, he got DVD’s of the commercials and showed them to parishioners and, during Lent, had them invite friends and neighbors who weren’t going to church to meetings in their homes to share the Gospel.

As for the commercials, “they were definitely effective. I’m convinced of that,” Father Suarez said. “But it wasn’t just the commercials. It was our homilies about evangelization and our parish mission, which supported what we did.”

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7 responses to “Divine Providence: in Rhode Island, Catholics are coming home”

  1. Living just outside of Providence, I know that this city attracts many Latinos, due to some of the welfare advantages that the city offers. Notice the uptick in Mass attendance is Latino in the example given for the city’s increase.

  2. I love those commercials “Catholics Come Home”…. wish they could be played on prime time spots.

  3. And don’t forget, Bishop Tobin was willing to take on “I.C.E” publicly and head on. That earned him a great deal of respect from the Latino community.

  4. This story is misleading. It is not old Catholics coming home but new Hispanic immigrants filling the old churches. Illegal immigration to Providence Rhode Island has now changed the census so that the majority of residents are Hispanic. A 30% increase in just 10 year.

  5. Yes, George, they come for the welfare. I’ve been here 17 1/2 years, and used to teach in a RC school in Provicence.

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