Tag Archives: Tom Peterson

Brief comfort can change someone forever

“Not long ago, I took an early morning flight from Wichita to Atlanta. Getting up while it was still dark was hard, but I consoled myself with the thought that at least I’d be comfortable on the plane. I had gotten an upgrade to first class, thanks to being a frequent flier. Unfortunately, after boarding the plane I found that we had been assigned to an old aircraft that did not have a first-class section. Some of the first-class passengers lost their temper and took out their frustrations on the flight crew.

Tom Peterson

It wasn’t the flight attendants’ fault, and they were doing their best to make everyone comfortable. When an attendant brought me a cup of coffee, I said to her, “You know, even though we don’t have a firstclass section today, you’re still giving us all first-class service. Thank you so much.” This flight attendant wore a name badge that said “Jessie.” She smiled and said, “Thank you for saying that. It’s been a tough morning and a rough week in general.” We talked a little bit more, and then she moved on to serve the other passengers.

We were about halfway through our flight when I saw Jessie talking with another flight attendant. They were whispering, so I could not hear what they were saying but from her tone of voice it was obvious that Jessie was distraught. I prayed and wondered what I could do to help her. After that prayer, I felt led to take out a Catholics Come Home evangelization card from my wallet and to write on the back of it: “Jessie, the hope that you seek comes only from Jesus and His Church. God loves you! Tom.” At the end of the flight, as the crew prepared for landing, Jessie came down the aisle one last time.

As she was passing my seat, she stopped and said, “I can’t thank you enough for being so nice. I just really feel that we were supposed to meet. Thank you so much.” Handing her the card with the message, I said, “Please read this when you get off the plane.”

About a week later, a letter arrived from Jessie. She wrote, “My name is Jessie. You were on my flight, and you handed me a card with a note on the back. How did you know I was so desperately in need of that message? I want to thank you. I have not stopped crying since I read your note and went to your website. I was raised Catholic, but had been away from the Church and God for many years. I’m recently divorced and struggling with the emptiness of being alone. I have been searching for a man to be in my life and I have found that man. It’s God.”

Jessie had gone back to Mass and came home to God [days before her letter was received].

Excerpt taken from Chapter 7, “Home for Good” from Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life, by Tom Peterson (Image Books, 2013). Used by permission.

Network TV producer, author and evangelist, TOM PETERSON is founder of CatholicsComeHome.org and VirtueMedia. org, following 25 years as an award-winning ad executive. He hosts the popular TV series “Catholics Come Home ,” and was vice chairman of Legatus International Board of Governors, helping charter the Phoenix and Atlanta Chapters.

Catechism 101

In order that the message of salvation can show the power of its truth and radiance before men, it must be authenticated by the witness of the life of Christians. “The witness of a Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have great power to draw men to the faith and to God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2044

The ultimate call-back

Legate Tom Peterson’s Catholics Come Home ministry is rebuilding the flock . . .

Tom Peterson

Tom Peterson

Mary Bane left the Catholic Church 10 years ago, but all it took was a 30-second television commercial to call her home.

The invitation came from former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz. The ad was produced by the Catholics Come Home apostolate founded by Atlanta Legate and former advertising executive Tom Peterson.

In the commercial, Holtz talks about staying focused on the goal, fumbling due to sin, and getting back on the field through the sacrament of Reconciliation. “So, if you haven’t been going to Mass lately,” he said, “get back in the game. We’re saving your seat on the starting bench this Sunday.”

Television series

A wife and mother of three sons, Bane said she felt Holtz was speaking directly to her in the Catholics Come Home “evangomercial.” When she saw it a second time, she called her husband to watch.

“He thought it was really neat that you can ‘come home’ because we thought once you left, you left, and there was no coming back,” she explained.

Thanks to that 30-second message, which reached 100 million people, and the material Bane later found on the Catholics Come Home website, she and her family are now back in the Catholic Church as members of St. Agnes Parish in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. After years in four different Protestant churches — and despite the good experiences they had in them — Bane said something always seemed to be missing.

The Banes tell their homecoming story in one of 13 episodes of EWTN’s new Catholics Come Home television series. In the 30-minute episodes filmed in various locations in the U.S. and Canada, viewers get to meet such returnees as a linguistics professor who was an atheist for 52 years, a former drug addict and dealer who now works at a Catholic hospice for homeless men, and a 27-year-old law student who attended Ave Maria University as a Protestant before converting to the Catholic faith.

Their stories are interspersed with “evangomercials” and other segments, including one hosted by Peterson’s 26-year-old daughter, Katie Warner, explaining how to share the faith.

The series, which debuted in October, airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. Eastern. Shows are also available on DVD and online on EWTN.com.

Besides the EWTN series, Catholics Come Home’s upcoming projects include a “Keep Christ in Christmas” ad to be shown during Advent and a Confession ad called “Heavy Burdens” set to air during Lent.

Calling Catholics home

The Catholics Come Home apostolate grew out of what Peterson calls his spiritual awakening at a 1997 parish retreat in Gilbert, Ariz. Although he went to Mass on Sundays and never disagreed with Church teaching, Peterson admits he was a lukewarm Catholic. As his retreat group was gathered in front of the Eucharist, however, God became real to him.

“He invited me to downsize and simplify my life and to have a relationship with him,” he explained. “His love was so apparent in my heart I couldn’t say no. It was like a light switch turned on and the adventure began.”

Peterson started attending daily Mass and reading the Bible. In the process, he asked God what he should do with his life and how he might use his talents in advertising to serve him.

At first, Peterson continued working in his own agency, Peterson Advertising Corp., while he started Virtue Media to produce pro-life messages. He also helped the Diocese of Phoenix with a campaign to invite people back to the Church.

Eventually, he went full-time with Catholics Come Home, giving up a lucrative income and selling both his homes to move to a smaller one. The apostolate, which includes Virtue Media, operates out of a donated office condo in Roswell, Ga., with one full-time staff member besides Peterson and a host of vendors, volunteers and part-time employees.

Since the startup — in addition to running four national campaigns — Peterson has helped 37 dioceses with Catholics Come Home efforts, and he is currently working with three more. In the 12 dioceses that have measured results, more than half a million people have returned to the faith.

The gold standard

Patrick Madrid

Patrick Madrid

Author, radio host and Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid said that to his knowledge no one has pitched a message asking Catholics and others to “come home” the way Peterson has.

Madrid said he has also been struck by the high quality of Peterson’s media work — so much so that when he first saw a presentation of Virtue Media’s pro-life commercials at a Phoenix parish several years ago, he immediately offered his support. Peterson later contacted Madrid, who now serves on the Catholics Come Home advisory board.

“He’s been able to catapult the level of quality so far forward that I would say Catholics Come Home has become the gold standard for outreach for Catholic causes,” Madrid said.

Through his speaking events and radio program, Madrid estimates he has met more than 100 people who have told him they returned to the Church after seeing a Catholics Come Home “evangomercial.”

“They say things like, ‘I can’t believe I saw this on a secular TV station. I was just watching sports and — wham! — here’s this Catholic commercial. I wasn’t looking for it, but it found me!’”

In the foreword to Peterson’s 2013 book, Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life (Image Books), author and theologian Scott Hahn said he believes all Catholics are being asked to take up the work that Catholics Come Home is doing.

Peterson said that although not everyone is called to leave a secular career to work for the Church, he believes Legates especially can assist the New Evangelization right where they are by opening doors in their dioceses for Catholics Come Home to be invited — or by organizing book studies or viewings of the Catholics Come Home TV series in their parishes.

He attributes the apostolate’s success to the Holy Spirit, rather than to his own abilities.

“The ingenuity of men only goes so far, but when an apostolate is obedient to the Holy Spirit, things happen above and beyond what any smart person could do.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

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The dynamic evangelist

Allen Hunt’s remarkable journey from megachurch pastor to Catholic dynamo . . . .

As the pastor of a successful megachurch and the grandson, great-grandson and nephew of Methodist pastors, Allen Hunt never had reason to consider becoming Catholic.

But the seeds planted by a Dominican priest and fellow graduate student at Yale University sprouted 15 years later to lead Hunt into the Catholic Church, where he now labors in the fields of evangelization and catechesis.

New Evangelization

Allen Hunt

Allen Hunt

Hunt works as vice president of strategy at the Dynamic Catholic Institute, where he helps develop content and set long-term direction. Lately, he’s been working on a program designed to give young people who receive Confirmation more than a “check-the-box” experience, but one which infuses them with the beauty and genius of the sacrament.

In addition, Hunt designed and presented the series “Passion and Purpose for Marriage” and has played a key role in the institute’s fundraising efforts.

“His life and experiences have all led him to this place and this time — and prepared him for this work,” said Matthew Kelly, the institute’s president and CEO.

Hunt and Kelly met through business management author Patrick Lencioni in 2008, and the men soon realized they shared a passion for the New Evangelization.

“I was immediately struck by the gifts God has given him to guide and inspire people into a relationship with God,” Kelly said, adding that as he got to know Hunt better, he became convinced the former pastor belonged at Dynamic Catholic.

“When I explain to people what we’re doing at Dynamic Catholic, most people get it, but some people get it right at the core of their being because Dynamic Catholic articulates something that they have long known. Allen is one of those people.”

Hunt concurs. “It’s my whole life,” he said of his work to help Catholics and non-Catholics alike discover what the Church offers. “It’s a wonderful thing to be Catholic.”

Conversion of heart

Hunt’s conversion story began while he was working on a doctorate in New Testament and ancient Christian origins at Yale and became friends with Dominican Fr. Steven Boguslawski. The friendship opened a window into Catholicism for the Protestant pastor, especially when the priest suggested that he and Hunt give a Lenten retreat to a community of cloistered Dominican nuns.

When Hunt met the sisters, he said he was instantly struck by their radiance. “It took me a minute to realize I was in the presence of the physical manifestation of holiness.”

On the last day of the retreat during a question-and-answer session, one of the sisters queried Hunt: “You sound really Catholic, so I have to ask: Why aren’t you part of the Church?” When Hunt explained he didn’t share the Catholic belief about the Eucharist, she challenged him to recall a verse in 1 Corinthians in which Jesus is quoted as saying “this is my body” as he breaks bread and gives it to the apostles at the last supper. The nun then asked Hunt, “Allen, what don’t you understand?”

“That was the initial seed of faith that God planted in the back of my soul,” Hunt recalled. “Fifteen years of water and sun and fertilizer eventually carried the day.” However, it was not until he entered the Church and was invited back to the cloister for a series of lectures that he discovered the sisters had been praying for him all along.

“I didn’t have a chance,” he quipped.

After his studies at Yale, Hunt went on to become senior pastor of Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Ga. — the third-largest United Methodist congregation in the country. Over time, however, he grew increasingly uncomfortable with Protestant worship’s dependence on the pastor, the sermon and the music. In addition, through reading and reflection, he became convinced of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and started going to Mass when he was on vacation. He also sought out Catholic resources for prayer and preaching preparation.

Ultimately, Hunt said, he was drawn to Catholicism by the real presence, the hierarchy, and the unity of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. This, he said, contrasted with the fragmented nature of Protestantism and his experience of being in a denomination where everything seemed to be up for a vote every four years.

“In the Roman Catholic Church,” he said, “while there is an uncomfortable tension, there is still a sense that all are part of the Church, though we may disagree. And there is one hierarchy and Mass and Eucharist that bind us together like mortar.”

Even before Hunt became Catholic, Blessed John Paul II had caught his attention. He was struck by the man’s holiness and witness. As for Pope Francis, Hunt said, “I love him. The media are trying to frame him the way they want him to be, but he has the ability to cut through all that for his own bold, unique witness. In this media age, that is unusual. I think he also has reminded us to lead with love.”

A dynamic Catholic

L-R: Allen Hunt, daughters Grin (graduating from GATech) and Sarah Ann, wife Anita

L-R: Allen Hunt, daughters Grin (graduating from GATech) and Sarah Ann, wife Anita

Hunt entered the Church at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta on Jan. 6, 2008. His wife Anita did not join him in converting, but Hunt said because she understood how he had reached his decision, she has remained supportive. Anita organizes all her husband’s events in Catholic settings and she accompanies him. They attend Mass and Legatus events together. The couple’s two daughters since have followed their father into the Church.

Tom Peterson, founder of Catholics Come Home, invited the Hunts to join Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter. Peterson says it took extreme humility and a sacrificial heart for Hunt to give up the lead pastorate of a thriving church that drew 5,000 worshipers every Sunday.

Hunt’s conversion, Peterson said, has been a gift to the New Evangelization. “Allen is blessed with a skill set, a talent and a charism to convey Christ’s word in a way that everybody can understand. He’s got the gift of preaching and the charism of teaching, but also has a zeal and passion for the faith that is contagious.”

Added Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, director of adult education at St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell, Ga.: “His energy is a huge plus, but he’s also a great storyteller. We need more people who can weave a good story while engaging in evangelization. Allen can grab your attention and keep it.”

Matthew Kelly said he has been inspired by Hunt’s gift for what he calls “relational ministry.” “He just likes people. I know it sounds strange, but it is amazing to me how many people in ministry don’t really like getting to know people and don’t enjoy just being with people. Allen lives for this. He thrives on it and sees it as the core of the way Jesus approached people.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Faithful grandparenting

Legatus members across the country are spreading the faith to a new generation . . .


When it comes to the Catholic faith, grandparents can have a powerful influence on their grandchildren. In fact, many Catholics cite grandparents as their greatest faith influence. Legatus members, whose mission is to “spread the faith,” take the mission to heart especially with their own families.

Setting an example

Brian Von Gruben is Legatus’ Central Region director. He and his wife Marsha have six children and are expecting their 34th grandchild. All of their children are faithful Catholics. Von Gruben admits that while raising their kids, their household was nothing like the Waltons’ (a seemingly perfect TV family from the ‘70s). However, he says, God sustained them.

“God blessed our efforts. Our kids watched us and learned from our good and bad examples. But whatever the ups and downs, faith was always the paramount thing in our life,” said Von Gruben, who is retiring from his Legatus post at the end of June.

Today, when the Von Grubens visit their grandchildren, they take part in evening prayers and family rosaries. In terms of passing on the faith, Von Gruben looks to himself first.

The Von Grubens

The Von Grubens at a 2009 baptism

“The most important thing for me is to have a healthy and ever-deepening faith,” he explained. “I can’t pass something on if I don’t have it — so I need a daily prayer life.”

Another important thing, he said, is for older people to be joyful and peaceful.

“Sometimes old people are grumpy. They worry about getting old and not feeling well. Kids need to see a joyful grandparent for the faith to be attractive. They need to be fun, playful and have a twinkle in their eye,” he said. “I always tell my grandchildren foolish stories about a very nice, old man — who’s me. They love that. I also tell them Old Testament stories — especially David and Goliath. They think these stories are really cool.”

Von Gruben believes that holiness has to be taken seriously, meaning no foul language or bad behavior on the part of grandparents. “Your grandkids need to see that some people take seriously the job of being good people,” he said.

Preach by example

Mike and Jackie Winn, members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter,have eight children and 57 grandchildren. All of their children are church-going Catholics.

“How did we do it? We started with prayer as we raised them,” said Mike Winn. “Another basic thing is that we preached by example, not by words. If they saw that something was important to us, it became important to them.”

The role of family reunions and family prayer, Winn said, can definitely strengthen a grandchild’s faith. The Winns have a farm outside of Chicago where they converted several barns into residences. At Christmas, the whole family — all eight children and 57 grandkids — gets together. The oldest Winn daughter is a chef who plans the week’s entire menu. Each day a different family does the cooking, serving and entertaining. Children will sing, play an instrument or just tell a joke or story for the entire clan.

“We pray a family rosary after dinner every night during these reunions,” Winn said. “Of course, we do this in freedom. Some mothers with young babies with other needs might not attend. We also have a little chapel and shrine on the farm — and we ask a priest to come and say Mass for us.”

Spending one-on-one time with a grandchild is also very important. The Winns live near their daughter who homeschools her 14 children. Twice a week, one of them — a grandson named Liam — sleeps over the Winns’ house so he can get tutored by a special-needs teacher who lives nearby.

The Melancon Family

Joe & Paula Melancon with six of their eight grandchildren (Blackburn Photography-Houston)

Joe and Paula Melançon, members of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter, have three children and eight grandchildren. All of their children are faithful Catholics. For their success, they credit the highly Catholic area where they raised their family — and the faith that their children saw among their grandparents.

“With our own children, Paula made every sacrament a huge celebration,” said Joe Melançon, a member of Legatus’ Board of Governors. “We always had a family celebration and sent out invitations.”

Because two of the Melançons’ children live out of state, they make a special effort to travel to their grandchildren’s first sacraments. When the Melançons’ eldest grandchild, Marie-Claire, was preparing for Confirmation in Houston, she asked her grandmother Paula to be her sponsor.

“It was very special,” said Paula. “The Confirmation formation program at her parish was five months. We would Skype every Friday afternoon and talk through the Confirmation book. It was wonderful for me to have this insight into her preparation.”

When faith is lacking

Not all grandparents, however, have the blessing of seeing their grandchildren practice the faith — sometimes because their adult children have left the faith, married a non-Catholic or gotten a divorce.

One of the saddest things is when a grandchild is not baptized. Tom Peterson, a member of Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter and founder of Catholics Come Home, is sometimes asked if grandparents can “secretly” baptize a grandchild.

“Grandparents can talk to their children about how important baptism is for their grandchild’s salvation,” he explained. “Parents can be persuaded to understand the necessity of this important sacrament. Ultimately, grandparents must have the consent of the grandchild’s parents for baptism and for the grandparents to be the religious educators, if the parents will not be.”

In some cases, parents refuse to pass on the faith to their children, which is a painful trial for grandparents.

The Winn Family

The Winn Family

“First and foremost, grandparents can pass on the faith to their grandchildren by setting an example of faith in their lives and never ceasing to pray for them,” Peterson said. “Pray with your grandchildren or around your grandchildren. Consider giving them little religious gifts on special occasions — a rosary, a little picture or statue of Jesus, a children’s illustrated Bible, etc. Let them ask questions, and teach them about Jesus and the Catholic Church He founded.”

However, grandparents should never demean the parents’ lack of faith.

“Rather, be a beacon of peace and light in your grandchildren’s lives so they will see the example of faith you set and be eager to ask you questions about ‘the reason for your hope,’” Peterson said. “If the parents are not bothered by you teaching their children the faith, take opportunities to bring them to Mass with you or instruct them in little bits and pieces when you’re together.”

The issue of grandparents passing on the faith touches many hearts. Catherine Wiley founded the Dublin, Ireland-based Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) in order to help them in this task.

“I grew up surrounded by people of faith,” said CGA founder Catherine Wiley. “That’s not happening now. I have four children and 10 grandchildren. I realized that it wasn’t going to be easy to pass on the faith to them in today’s world.”

One of Wiley’s own children is divorced and his children are not baptized.

L-R: CGA president Maire Printer, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, CGA founder Catherine Wiley

L-R: CGA president Maire Printer, Boston’s Cardinal
Sean O’Malley, CGA founder Catherine Wiley

“This is a hidden cross which many grandparents share, especially in terms of knowing what to do, how to speak in front of your grandchild,” she said. “It’s difficult because the kids won’t know the faith and you can’t go over the parent’s head.”

When these grandchildren stay with her, however, they take part in Mass and family prayers along with the other grandchildren.

In 2007, Wiley organized Ireland’s first grandparents’ pilgrimage to Our Lady of Knock shrine. The event drew 5,000 people. It doubled the following year, and grew to 14,000 in 2009, prompting her to found the Catholic Grandparents Association.

Wiley wrote to Pope Benedict XVI about the need for a grandparent’s prayer. He responded in 2008 by writing a special prayer for grandparents, which is given to all CGA members. The group has since spread to England, the United States, Australia, the Solomon Islands, Malta, Canada, Philippines, Scotland and Mexico. In Ireland, CGA chapters provide a forum for grandparents to discuss their challenges. Members also pray for and strengthen each other.

“This group gives grandparents a voice because sometimes they feel  like they’ve failed,” said Wiley. “But they aren’t failing. They have to soldier on. Grandparents are very concerned about what’s happening with their grandkids, and they want to do something about it.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

For more information, visit: CatholicGrandparentsAssociation.org

Catholics Come Home

Tom Peterson’s moving invitation to Catholics and non-Catholics of all stripes . . .

PetersonCatholics Come Home
Tom Peterson
Image Books, 2013
111 pages, $23.99 hardcover

Subtitled God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life, Legate Tom Peterson proves that in a fast-paced world that often leaves us cold, God has a plan for each person. He offers inspiration for believers from all walks of life to deepen their faith and draw them closer to Christ.

In a series of stories and anecdotes, he relates how, after rediscovering his faith, he soon found his true purpose in life. Drawing from scripture, his own struggles and discoveries, he offers seven ways to enter into a more deeply personal relationship with Jesus.

Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

New Legatus board members

Three new members bring a diverse range of talent and experience to the board . . .

The Legatus Board of Governors welcomed three new members at its Sept. 17 meeting in Bonita Springs, Fla. The new members represent a wide range of experience and business leadership.

Lynne Alpar

Lynne Alpar

Lynne Alpar has worked as the CFO of Carlson Capital in Dallas, Texas, for the past 16 years. She manages the accounting, operations, taxation and reporting functions of the firm’s investment funds. Alpar is a certified public accountant and a founding board member for Capital For Kids, an organization that supports underprivileged children in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She and her husband Alan are also founding members of Legatus’ Fort Worth Chapter, where she serves as treasurer.

“The friendships we’ve made and the monthly chapter events have enriched us in our faith,” she said. “I hope that my years of accounting knowledge and experience will be a resource for John Hunt and his staff as they continue to manage the financial aspects of providing a meaningful Legatus experience to the many chapters they serve.”

Tom Peterson

Tom Peterson

Tom Peterson has over 25 years of experience as an award-winning and record-setting national corporate advertising executive and entrepreneur. While on a retreat in 1997, he had a profound reversion experience in his Catholic faith. Soon afterward, he founded Catholics Come Home and VirtueMedia, educational not-for- profit apostolates dedicated to promoting Catholic evangelization and the sanctity of human life.

“It will be exciting for me to collaborate with so many great minds on the Legatus Board,” he said. “Legatus provides a place for likeminded, passionate Catholics to build up each other and the Body of Christ — and share their commitment to the faith and Catholic business principles. And we do all these things with our spouses in a family environment.”

Peterson and his wife Patricia are members of Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter.

Fred Weiss

Fred Weiss

Fred Weiss is the president and CEO of The Weiss Company, a commercial real estate development firm. He is on the board of regents at Seattle University and the Washington Policy Center. He’s a past trustee of the Downtown Seattle Association. Weiss and his wife Martha are members of Legatus’ Seattle Chapter, where he serves as the chapter’s treasurer.

“Legatus has the power and prestige to change America’s perception of the sanctity of life,” he said. “We can become a clarion voice of reason to bring America gently back to her moral beginnings. But before this can be accomplished, Legatus must continue its vigorous growth.”