Christine McRory was doing housework three years ago when she heard a commercial in the background.
“It really called out to me. I was in tears, and I really wasn’t sure why,” McRory told the Register. “It was the nudge I needed to go back to church. It was the purpose and truth of the faith that I missed."
The “evangomercial” was one of a series from Catholics Come Home (CCH).
“Our family is made up of every race; rich and poor; sinners and saints. With God’s grace, we’re the largest charitable organization on the planet. We educate more children than any other institution. We defend the dignity of all human life, uphold marriage and family. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we compiled the New Testament. We pray for you and our world whenever we celebrate Mass. Jesus laid the foundation for our faith when he said to Peter, the first pope, ‘You are rock, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’” the ad states. “For 2,000 years, we’ve had an unbroken line of shepherds guiding the Catholic Church with love and truth. We invite you to take another look.”
After 20 years, CCH’s track record is what Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has called “a statistically verifiable program of bringing people back to the Church.”
Pitch for Faith
With years of prior professional media experience in advertising, CCH founder Tom Peterson prayed, “How do you want to use my life, God?” He believes God prepared him to evangelize to people, but not in the pews. So he produced a media program for the Diocese of Phoenix, resulting in 92,000 people coming to, or back to, the Church.
Over two decades, CCH has helped 500,000-plus people return home to the Church, with millions of viewers in the U.S. and foreign countries. As Peterson said, “Jesus the Good Shepherd cares about each individual soul. He invites us to help ‘love somebody to heaven.’”
Ryan Hanning piloted CCH in Phoenix, telling the Register via email, “It’s a personal invitation to encounter Christ through his Church. ... We saw increases in Mass attendance and RCIA. What was important was a warm, sincere invite."
CCH’s website launched in 2006 and is now available in eight languages.
Video testimonies of Catholics who’ve been away from the Church and returned, or converts from other faiths or no faith at all, reveal a hunger for the truth.
The apostolate is the only faith group to air on national networks and during football games. One evangomercial features Coach Lou Holtz of Notre Dame football fame: “The key to winning in this life is choosing to do God’s will and loving others with all you’ve got. If you haven’t been going to Mass weekly, get back in the game. We’re saving your seat on the starting bench this Sunday.”
Overall, the ads air on hundreds of channels, including national networks, like CBS, NBC, ESPN, HGTV, TBS and WGN, as well as smaller local ones.
Bishops have taken note, as the CCH website relates.
In St. Louis, Archbishop Robert Carlson, credits CCH with “37,000 souls who returned to the faith. It was wonderful to receive calls from people who said they used this as an invitation from the Holy Spirit to return to the Catholic faith.”
Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento noted an increase of 16% in Mass attendance and confessions. “Among returning Catholics, the phrase ‘hit home’ was heard time and again in reference to the TV ads.”
As Seen on TV!
One powerful evangomercial is a rewind of life, eliciting reflection over mistakes and sins, as well as joy in reliving good moments.
“God wants us to be with him in heaven forever, and he wants us to bring as many people as possible,” Peterson shares in the ad.
Gloria Sampson was raised Catholic, but fell away in college and was an atheist for 50 years. After a divorce, she thought, “I’ve been without God for so long, I guess I don’t need God.” One night, as she shared in a CCH episode on EWTN, she saw a “very unusual ad. It said Catholics Come Home. I’d never heard it that way: Come home!” She visited the website and realized she still believed after all those years. She was then invited by a neighbor to a parish seminar.
“I know God exists. I searched for the truth as an academic all my life, but there was one truth I was missing — and that was God. When we sing the Our Father, that is the most beautiful thing in the world. I have no will of my own left. It’s all God's will, the way it should be. All I want to do now is evangelize!”
Michael Mark shared his conversion on a CCH episode, too. “I lived a life of drugs, sex, stealing. It really strained not only my relationship with my dad, but with God,” he shared with the Register in an email. “I got clean ... but something was missing. I came upon EWTN and a CCH testimony from a Catholic who had a similar situation. ... I went to Mass and ... I was welcomed with open arms. When I started going to church, my dad would accompany me, and it was such a blessing ... like the Parable of the Prodigal Son.”
He added, “The last week I was with my dad … he told me he loved me ... and like God the Father has forgiven me. I owe CCH a sincere thank you for helping me come home.”
Another CCH episode features Tom Henderson, an agnostic. “I thought I could take care of myself,” he recalled on an episode. After a parish educational program, he heard a CCH evangomercial, and he related: “I learned from that commercial — that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church had compiled the Bible long ago. ... The need for authority became self-evident to me.” He found faith and reason together in the Church: “Jesus delivered a hard teaching around the Body and Blood of Christ. I’d never heard the part in John before so clearly: This was a hard teaching, and many turned away — but Jesus didn’t stop them. The Catholic Church has this exact teaching on the Eucharist.” He joined RCIA and now attends Mass with his wife.
Raised Buddhist, Daniel Bui later attended a Christian church with his parents but had thought about Christ’s hope for Christian unity and differing beliefs on the Eucharist. He came upon a pamphlet, “How to Stay Christian in College,” and contacted the author, who introduced him to natural law and the early Church Fathers. He read Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, “and the first chapter just blew me away,” he told the Register. A young practicing Catholic then shared a CCH evangomerical with him. All these nudges led him to an RCIA program. Daniel is now an active Catholic, who also told the Register, “Life is a lot deeper now.”
Thomas Manns shared his journey on a CCH episode, too. After years as an agnostic, a severe injury left him depressed. “I cursed God for keeping me alive. Satan wanted me to think about suicide. Then I saw a CCH commercial. Something snapped. I read, Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life. So many points were just dead-on. I walked into a church and thought, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be. This is home.’ Coming back to the Church is the first step to healing; I went from being desperate to finding hope. CCH helped save my life and take the path [God] planned.”
Remington Stewart shared his journey on the show, as well. He “didn’t think it was possible to have a relationship with” God and became involved with pornography and then lost someone he’d loved. “What did it mean to ‘come home?’ I didn’t know the Catholic Church goes back to the beginning.” He watched every CCH episode, attracted by the mercy of Jesus Christ. “Who wouldn’t want to ask for it? Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Raised by culturally Jewish parents, Beth Kuklinski suffered a difficult childhood. With no faith, she became depressed. Divorced, she tried counseling and medication, but nothing helped. “I saw a CCH evangomercial and couldn’t get it out of my head,” she told the Register. “I started going to Mass, attracted to the Eucharist even before I became Catholic. I wanted to be in a loving place and work toward eternal life. I became Catholic and sat for 40 minutes in my first confession. It was a wonderful experience. I’m a changed person! God is a loving God, and he asks us to share that love with our neighbor.”
Register correspondent Patty Knap writes from Long Island, New York.