Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller. CNS photo

Vancouver program aims to bring Catholics home

By  Nathan Rumohr, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 25, 2012

VANCOUVER - 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 announced 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 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 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 Ryan Hanning, director of parish leadership for the diocese of Phoenix, discuss some of the ideas on how to welcome Catholics back. Hanning’s diocese was the pilot for Catholics Come Home in 2008. The diocese helped produce 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.

He shared some of the CCH findings and described the state of Catholicism in Vancouver, saying the west coast city 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, 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 occasionally.

Hanning also talked about the “inactive Catholics” that make up 25 per cent of the Catholic population. He went over some 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. He said of the 6,000 people who contacted them in the Phoenix diocese, only a few claimed the reason they left the Church was the sex-abuse scandal.

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.”

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