Initiative invites fallen-away faithful to rediscover their Catholic faith
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Ryan Hanning of the Diocese of Phoenix talks over the Catholics Come Home program with Father Patrick Chisholm at Our Lady of Fatima Parish Sept. 29. Nathan Rumohr / The B.C. Catholic.
The Archdiocese of Vancouver is inviting Catholics to come back to their faith this holiday season with a "Catholics Come Home" (CCH) initiative. Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, will officially announce the initiative during his fundraising dinner Oct. 25.
CCH is a multi-faceted campaign that combines media and parish outreach to bring fallen-away Catholics back to the Church. The media component involves commercials produced by CCH that will air between Dec. 13 and Jan. 20 on major TV stations in Vancouver. Parishes have been preparing outreach plans to welcome those inspired by the commercials.
"In the Archdiocese of Vancouver there may be as many as 250,000 Catholics who need us to reach out and welcome them," said Archbishop Miller. "Every one of us has family members, friends, or co-workers who once were active Catholics and now are no longer."
"With the upcoming 'Catholics Come Home' initiative we have a wonderful opportunity to reach out to others and be spiritually renewed in the process," said Kyle Neilson, director of the office of evangelization for the archdiocese and part of the CCH Vancouver team.
Hundreds of parish representatives gathered at St. Patrick's, Our Lady of Fatima, and St. Matthew's Parishes Sept. 28 to 30 to hear from Ryan Hanning, director of parish leadership for the Diocese of Phoenix, some ideas on how they can welcome Catholics back.
Hanning's diocese was the pilot for "Catholics Come Home" in 2008. The diocese helped produce the commercials which later ran in several U.S. dioceses and in other countries.
"When we ran the campaign we didn't know what to expect and didn't know who our audience was," Hanning said during his talk at Our Lady of Fatima Sept. 29.
He shared some of the CCH findings and described the state of Catholicism in Vancouver.
He said Vancouver is second only to Berlin as the most secular city in the world.
"Thirty-six per cent of people that live in Vancouver say they are atheist or agnostic," Hanning reported.
"There is a huge mission field here."
He said there are more than 450,000 registered Catholics in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, 17 per cent of the population. Of those, 22.5 per cent attend Mass every week, 12 per cent attend Mass monthly, and 42 per cent attend Mass only sometimes.
Hanning also talked about the "inactive Catholics" that make up 25 per cent of the Catholic population. He went over some the reasons why those Catholics are inactive.
"When we prepared for the campaign we expected the vast majority of those who had left the faith did so because they were angry or mad," Hanning said. "The opposite was true."
He said reasons such as the sex-abuse scandal were not actually as statistically high as many had predicted.
"Statistically we know 85 per cent of people who left the faith left prior to the scandal," Hanning said. He added of the 6,000 people who contacted them in the Phoenix diocese, only a few actually claimed the reason they left over the Church was the sex-abuse scandal.
He said most people he encountered left for social reasons. "They live in a society that doesn't always respect the role of, and the importance of, religion in life."
Hanning said the challenge for parishes will be to find their own unique way of welcoming returning Catholics.
"I've been in parish life and know the challenges," Hanning said. "I know there is a temptation to respond (to the campaign) with a program; a one size fits all. People don't want to come back to a program; they want to come back to a person: Christ."
A collection Oct. 27 and 28 will support the CCH initiative. More information is available at www.catholicscomehome.org.