From the Washington Post:
The archdiocese has an estimated 580,000 Catholics, according to spokeswoman Susan Gibbs, but only about one-quarter attend Mass every Sunday. The $75,000 marketing blitz, with the slogan "Longing for something? Maybe it's God?" is designed to increase that percentage.You can check out Archbishop Wuerl's pitch on YouTube below:
Like the archdiocese's Lenten efforts during the past two years to encourage Catholics to go to confession more regularly, the campaign will include signs in subway cars and buses, radio and newspaper ads and a billboard on heavily traveled Route 301, north of Waldorf, Gibbs said.
But this year, church leaders are trying to harness the power of the Internet as well. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl is taking to YouTube, inviting Catholics who have "drifted away" to "think about coming back . . . to [their] spiritual home." Next week, the archdiocese will also start an interactive blog at www.Maybe-Its-God.org staffed by several priests and laypeople.
"We wanted people to be able to ask questions," Gibbs said. "Sometimes they're not ready to walk in a church door . . . or they might be embarrassed to ask a question, or they might be worried that they won't be welcome. People who are divorced believe that they might not be welcome, and that's not true. . . . We wanted to give people a way to . . . get in a dialogue about their faith."
Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church in Southeast Washington and one of the Web site's bloggers, expects questions on topics ranging from the interpretation of the Scriptures to the ordination of women. Personal concerns will be discussed privately, he said, rather than online.
"It's an additional forum [where I can] reach people that I don't get to see every Sunday," he said.
Although the campaign relies on the Web for its reach, it depends on parishioners for a human touch. The archdiocese has printed 50,000 cards in English and Spanish inviting anyone who has "been away from church . . . to come back again." Parishioners will be asked to mail or deliver them to friends and family.
The Rev. Michael King, pastor of Jesus the Good Shepherd in Owings, plans to introduce the invitations to his congregation during tomorrow's homily. The parish staff added their names and phone numbers to the cards so that anyone considering returning to the church could contact them.
"Our role is not to judge people. We're not here to make people feel guilty for being away," he said. "We're here . . . to welcome people back to church."