At 35, Tom Peterson was a cradle Catholic who ran his own ad agency and never missed Mass. “But I lived in that lukewarm area where I could pick and choose,” Peterson said. He was prone to swearing and given to anger, busy running his agency.
A powerful conversion experience he had during a men’s retreat in 1997 with St. Anne Parish in Gilbert changed his life dramatically.
“God spoke to my heart and invited me to downsize and simplify my life. I knew immediately what that meant, that I was too busy with my business career, where I didn’t take enough time for God or other people,” Peterson said. “He was calling me to live a more passionate, more authentic Catholic life. I said yes through His grace and mercy and my whole life changed.”
He no longer swore. He wasn’t so angry. He had more time for his wife and children.
God, Peterson said, called him to use his talents in advertising to serve the Church.
“A lot of people who aren’t living a Christian life think that when you say yes to God, your life is going to get boring or mundane and it’s just the opposite,” Peterson said. “It becomes an incredible adventure.”
Peterson went on to found Catholics Come Home, an advertising campaign that has helped bring thousands of people back to the Catholic Church. He also founded Virtue Media, a pro-life apostolate. Both organizations have interactive websites and produce commercials that inform and inspire. Using his advertising abilities, Peterson said, he’s been able to do the work God equipped him to do.
“God gave us our talents and interests to serve Him and others,” Peterson said. “It’s not by coincidence that He gifted us in those areas…He has such an incredible adventure planned for our lives if we trust in Him, but we have to say yes.”
That’s part of the message he delivered at the 2013 Marian conference held last month in Phoenix where he spoke passionately about his love for God and promoted his book, “Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life.”
Peterson travels the country, speaking at parishes and conferences to deliver that same message. Thirty-five dioceses have aired his Catholics Come Home commercials, resulting in thousands returning to or embracing the Catholic faith.
It’s all about gently inviting people, he said.
“When we yell and we scream and we point fingers at people, nothing good happens,” Peterson said. “When we invite with love, like Jesus did, much good fruit comes from that.”
The phrase he likes to quote is, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Peterson said it’s our Christian love that will win hearts over, not our intellectual arguments. Most people who have left the faith have just drifted away and are waiting to be invited. The Catholics Come Home commercials are a powerfully effective way to do that, he said.
Virtue Media recently finished filming a new commercial in Phoenix featuring five post-abortive women who regret their decisions. The new ad, which he hopes will air this fall, was seen for the first time by attendees at the Marian conference.