MIAMI — Tom Peterson, founder of Catholics Come Home, announced that his Catholic evangelization organization will be airing a new national television commercial featuring retired college football coach Lou Holtz during college football week and ending with the BCS National Championship (Notre Dame vs. Alabama) on Jan. 7. The 30-second ad features Coach Holtz delivering a half-time “pep-talk” reminding viewers to keep focused on life’s goal: heaven.
“Faith is not a spectator’s sport; it must be lived. … It’s interactive,” said Peterson in a press release. “We’re trying a creative game plan, with the goal of winning loyal fans for Jesus and the Church.”
He continued, “All viewers who follow the wisdom of Coach Holtz … will be the true winners when the final down is played.”
Using a locker room as a backdrop, Holtz reminds viewers of the importance of doing God’s will, loving others, prayer, discipline, gaining strength through God’s word and receiving the sacraments. And, when we “fumble due to sin,” the sacrament of confession “puts us back on the field,” the Catholic retired coach reassures viewers.
The Holtz ad will be aired in various markets and programming throughout the United States, reaching an estimated 70 million households. Peterson said he wrote the spot more than a year ago and, “by God’s grace,” met Holtz by accident at Los Angeles International Airport and invited him to star in the ad. Holtz agreed.
Then, additional Catholic attention was ensured when Notre Dame unexpectedly went unbeaten this season and soared to the top of national college-football polls. Holtz served as Notre Dame’s head coach from 1986-1996, winning a national championship with an unbeaten team in 1988.
Peterson noted, “It’s quite apparent that God is watching over us and has a wonderful plan in store.”
Peterson was a successful advertising executive living in Arizona who went on retreat 15 years ago and had a powerful “reversion” experience while praying before the Blessed Sacrament. He decided to leave the business world and found Catholics Come Home, an organization that works with dioceses to lead people into the Church. Today, it is headquartered in the suburbs of Atlanta.
“I believe I’ve been called to use my advertising talents to bring people to Christ,” Peterson said.
The organization is invited into a diocese by its bishop and then airs television ads with a “gentle yet powerful invitation” to explore the Church. Peterson writes and produces the advertisements himself.
Catholics Come Home’s 30-member advisory board includes Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colo., Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., as well as prominent theologians and Catholic business executives.
Peterson said in the past three years Catholics Come Home has been invited into 30 American dioceses, resulting in 300,000 returning or coming into the Church. After the group’s advertisements air, according to parish census counts taken by dioceses themselves, Mass attendance has increased 18%.
One priest said that the Saturday after the Catholics Come Home ads aired in his diocese, 16 people came to confession after a long absence who specifically told him they were prompted by the ads. Peterson is hoping for similar success with the Holtz ad.
Peterson will soon release a book sharing his story, Catholics Come Home … God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life, with a forward by theologian and author Scott Hahn.
Jim Graves writes from Newport Beach, California.