||Tom Peterson, the founder of the organization Catholics Come Home, speaks on the importance of evangelization during the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison November 15. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
MADISON -- There is a math puzzle commonly put before young students in which they are offered $10,000 right now or one penny that doubles every day for the next 30 days.
Those who take the upfront cash miss out on more than five million dollars.
“How often do we settle for the instant gratification or the quick fix, not setting our sights on the long-term goal -- to keep us focused on Jesus and become heroes of the faith?” asked Tom Peterson, the founder of Catholics Come Home, at a recent lecture at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison.
This is the challenge of evangelizing the faith against a secular world that offers countless distractions: to offer the faith -- the promise of salvation -- truthfully in a way in which people can recognize and desire its beauty and joy. But it’s a challenge that he and many others have taken up through the efforts of Catholics Come Home.
How we evangelize
At the lecture titled “Calling Catholic Heroes to the Rescue!” on November 15, part of the semiannual St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series offered by the Diocese of Madison, Peterson spoke of how Catholics Come Home and several other media apostolates have been promoting Catholic evangelization and the sanctity of human life.
A former award-winning and record-setting national corporate advertising executive and entrepreneur who “went to church every week, but did my own thing the rest of the six days,” Peterson also shared his own story of reversion to the Catholic faith and discussed ways in which we all as baptized Catholics can share our testimony with others and help open the door to welcome people into the Church.
“Today and every day, God is calling each and every one of us . . . to spread the Gospel, the Good News, as part of the New Evangelization,” Peterson said. “And brothers and sisters -- I’m here to tell you the need is very great.”
Statistics show that about a quarter of the United States is baptized Catholic, but only about a quarter of those go to Mass regularly and half don’t go at all, he said, meaning a lot of U.S. Catholics are fertile ground for evangelization. We have a great opportunity to “minister to the other Tom Petersons who aren’t getting it.”
“You and I are put here as the Body of Christ for one main reason: to evangelize the world,” Peterson said. “That is the mission of the Church.”
Ways to make a difference
In the Year of Faith, the Diocese of Madison is offering opportunities to all Catholics to become more educated in their faith and encourage them to share it, said Patrick Delaney, director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
The diocese has resources for individuals and for parish small group study guides and more. The Seat of Wisdom courses are also a great opportunity for catechesis, even for people who have trouble finding time in the busy-ness of their lives.
But even without the catechesis, each of us can evangelize.
“Most of us in this room are not theologians,” Peterson acknowledged in response to a question after his talk -- but there are two simple ways in which we can respond to questions about our faith:
First, to share our testimony. “God has written on our hearts a story,” Peterson said. “That’s one way to share it . . . tell them the power of prayer; you can tell them why God is good.”
Second, he offered the common sales technique called “Feel, felt, found,” in which you listen and understand how the person feels about an issue, tell them about someone — perhaps yourself — who felt the same way, and then explain what that other person found when they explored the Church’s teaching.
Peterson also emphasized the need to pray for those who have a hard time with the message. At every Mass during the consecration, he prays on each finger for someone he has encountered.
“I pray for people like that because that’s all you can do,” he said. “We’re supposed to push that rock, not move it — the rest of it is up to God.”
The CatholicsComeHome.org Web site has something for people of any background: non-Catholics who want answers to questions about the faith, lapsed Catholics who want to know how they can start the journey home, and even the average Catholic who wants to learn more about the Church they believe in and how they can share that faith with others.