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The Deacon's Bench

And in a big way. A lot of you have seen the great ads produced by a group called Catholics Come Home. The ads, evidently, are working. And spreading.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento is home to nearly 1 million Catholics. On a typical Sunday, less than 137,000 can be found in church.

Now, using a strategy straight from the secular playbook, its leaders hope to lure back those who have drifted.

The diocese and nearly a dozen others across the country are preparing to air several thousand prime-time TV commercials in English and Spanish, inviting inactive Catholics to return to their religious roots.

In addition to Sacramento, dioceses in Chicago, Omaha, Providence, R.I., and four other cities will launch the “Catholics Come Home” advertising blitz during Advent, the period before Christmas.

Four more dioceses will follow during Lent next spring. Los Angeles is not among the initial group but could be part of a nationwide campaign slated for December 2010.

“I’m hoping that a significant number of people will give us another look,” Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto said of the campaign. “Many Catholics have a sense of believing but not always a sense of belonging.”

The potential audience is huge.

Only about one-quarter of U.S. Catholics say they attend Mass every week, and a majority go to religious services a few times a year or less, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, which conducts social science research about the Catholic church.

Researchers there also found that two-thirds of Catholics believe they can be good members of their faith without attending Mass regularly.

Inactive Catholics cite a number of reasons for their absence. Many do not believe that missing Mass is a sin, the center reported. Others say they are too busy with family or work, or, as other analysts point out, are more interested in material happiness than spiritual fulfillment.

“There is a strange pattern of people who aren’t practicing but still have beliefs and pick up parts of the faith,” said Mark Gray, a research associate with the center. “They may give up meat on Fridays during Lent or attend Ash Wednesday services.”

Curious to see what all the fuss is about? Check out the videos below. And you can find more at the Catholics Come Home link.

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