|Catholics Come Home multimedia advertising has brought hundreds of thousands of people back to the Catholic Church.|
This is the second article in a series entitled Inside the Apostle.
December 9, 2011. Bob Trussell had a wife
and two small children when he went broke. A recession
had hit the Kentucky racehorse business, which was his main
source of livelihood, and he—along with many others—was left scrambling
A cradle Catholic, Trussell had started going to Mass
again at age 30, after a ten year hiatus following
his graduation from Marquette University. Now 40 and faced with
an uncertain future, he began going to daily Mass every
morning, praying in earnest for guidance.
“I prayed and told God
that I didn’t know what to do and I was
open to suggestions,” he said simply.
Shortly after that, Trussell happened
to meet a Swedish man who was working on a
new line of mattresses based on a NASA-developed material that
distributed weight evenly. Recognizing the commercial potential of the mattresses,
Trussell obtained the US distribution rights and in 1992 launched
the Tempur-Pedic company, not without some struggles and sleepless nights.
years later, he was the CEO of a multi-million dollar
company on the New York Stock Exchange. The company currently
makes over a billion dollars in sales every year.
thought, ‘That’s a heck of an answer to a prayer!’”
And out of gratitude to God for a
splendidly answered prayer, he began a new chapter in life:
the phase of “giving back.”
Advertising as evangelization
God gives each person
certain gifts and talents, and professional experience acquired over the
years is one of those talents. Trussell soon realized that
the creative advertising he had used to make Tempur-Pedic flourish
could also be put at the service of the Catholic
“I learned a lot about the power of the media
and about how you can influence people’s behavior and purchasing
through advertising,” he said. “And I realized that advertising done
the right way is the same thing as preaching: you’re
just putting a certain point of view out there in
front of people in an attractive way.”
|Robert Trussell, Chairman of the Board for Catholics Come Home.|
Armed with that insight,
he began looking for others to collaborate with him on
an ambitious but very needed ideal: advertising at the service
of evangelization, and at the service of the Church.
on cue, he met a man named Tom Peterson, an
experienced and highly gifted marketing professional who had launched Virtue Media, a pro-life advertising agency that was saving thousands
of babies’ lives every year.
“I met Tom and said, ‘I’m
in.” said Trussell.
Trussell was eager to expand the pro-life
media outreach to general Christian and Catholic advertising. When he
proposed the idea, he found that Peterson was already a
step ahead of him; pilot ads Peterson had just launched
in collaboration with the diocese of Phoenix had brought 3,000
people back to the Catholic Church over the space of
a three-week ad campaign.
Following the success of that first
campaign, Trussell got involved in building up the support for
a new non-profit dedicated exclusively to advertising to fallen-away Catholics,
launching Catholics Come Home along with Tom Peterson, its
founder and president. Trussell and Peterson’s marketing team produced their
first campaign in Lent of 2008 with outstanding results: according
to the diocese’s count, 92,000 people returned to the Catholic
Church from the three-week campaign.
Serving the dioceses
In his particular
role as Chairman of the Board, Trussell is focused especially
on finding ways to fund Catholics Come Home on a
national scale. Unexpectedly, one of the most effective sources of
funding happened on its own, as bishops began talking to
each other about the ministry and the results of its
advertising campaigns. The bishops were so interested in getting the
ad campaigns in their own dioceses that they began fundraising
among their own parishioners to cover the ad costs.
getting phone calls from bishops in different places and in
different countries. We now have run the ads in over
33 dioceses, helping to increase Mass attendance an average of
10% in partner dioceses. The dioceses have received thousands of
parishioner contributions in individual areas , and they have paid
for each campaign locally. So we’ve been able to fund
the campaigns one at a time,” said Trussell.
In addition, the
Catholic Come Home® team has done its own fundraising, gathering
over 3 million for an upcoming national ad campaign airing
from December 16 through January 9th. Over 400 airings will
be seen on CBS, NBC, Univision, FoxNews, CNN, TNT, TBS,
major College Football Bowl games on Dish network, and other
prime-time and major network spots. More prayers and funding could
help to make this the “largest family reunion in Church
history” said Tom Peterson, Founder and President of Catholics Come
So far, in the first dozen or so Catholics
Come Home® campaigns, the dioceses have estimated that over 300,000
people have come back to the Church through the ads.
The goal for the upcoming national ad campaigns is to
bring 1 million souls back to the Church, but with
the understanding that even one soul is priceless in God’s
eyes. Once the ads are aired frequently in the U.S.,CCH
plans to look at other countries: Mexico, Australia, Canada, and
In a recent trip to Rome, Peterson and Trussell
visited with bishops and cardinals at the Vatican to share
their plans and the results of their work so far.
Their response was positive and supportive, although they also said
that the United States is the “best starting place” for
projects of this kind, and that if it worked in
the United States, it could work in other places—but that
if it did not work in the US, it would
be hard to make it work in Europe.
Meanwhile, the United
States has roughly 66 million Catholics, about two-thirds of whom
are not practicing their faith. That makes about 44 million
lost sheep to bring home to the fold—a sizeable mission
An entrepreneur at the service of evangelization
Although Trussell’s main role
was to help raise support and offer guidance for Catholics
Come Home® , fundraising is not his main strength.
realized I was not very good at raising money and
I didn’t like it much either,” he said candidly. “But
what I can do is launch businesses. I’m an entrepreneur
Talented individuals with ideas for new businesses began
walking into his life, and he began helping them get
their businesses off the ground. Right now, Trussell is integrally
involved in three such businesses. When and if those businesses
succeed, he plans to use the proceeds to fund Catholics
Come Home®, as well as a range of Catholic charities,
the Focus campus ministry group, and Matthew Kelly’s outreach to
confirmation-aged teens. He is also deeply involved with 1380 Real
Life Catholic Radio in Lexington, KY.
Through all of these outreach
projects, his main goal is evangelization.
“I feel very called
to evangelize. Every Sunday, we’re told to go out and
teach all nations, and it seems like we don’t do
a very good job. I think the reason is that
people don’t really know what to do. Catholics tend to
be private anyway about their faith,” he said.
face of that reality, Catholics Come Home® is an opportunity
for everyone to get involved in the common mission of
“It’s a great way for people to evangelize, because you’re
supporting direct Catholic evangelization with high quality messages that people
respond to,” he said.
And ad campaigns are just the beginning.
The New Evangelization allows for a wide range of creative
responses to the challenge of today’s culture.
“There is a
great opportunity to evangelize through the new media, which John
Paul II wanted us to do with his call for
a New Evangelization. This is all part of that,” he
said. “I think that television and Internet and radio can
be used in a very good way; we can use
these things to turn the culture around.”
To learn more about
Catholics Come Home and to support the first ever national
campaign for Catholic Evangelization, visit the web site at www.catholicscomehome.org or www.CatolicosRegresen.org.