Archbishop Gregory Aymond (copy) _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Gregory M. Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans greets Molly Gregory, 4, and Alston Gregory, 2, and their father Tom Gregory at Our Lady of Good Counsel during a reopening of the newly-restored historic church on Dec. 13, 2015. Aymond is attempting to attract new members to the Catholic Church with an ad campaign that will run in local movie theaters.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond is headed to the big screen -- to evangelize, that is.

Aymond appears in a 15-second commercial that will play in movie theaters across the area starting Friday as part of an ongoing effort by the Archdiocese of New Orleans to attract new or lapsed Catholics to the church, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The advertisement will run in theaters for the next year, in rotation with other ads that run before a movie plays.

The archdiocese is also running a separate digital ad campaign aimed at moviegoers using a website or mobile app to find movie times.

“We want to reach beyond the people we talk to regularly and issue an invitation to those who may not be familiar with the church or who have stopped attending Mass to take another look,” spokeswoman Sarah McDonald said.

The idea, McDonald said, was born out of the priorities set during the archdiocese's ninth General Synod, during which religious leaders and parishioners held a series of meetings in 2014 to set the vision for the archdiocese over the next several years.

The local commercial message is separate from the national "Catholics Come Home" initiative, which the archdiocese has been involved in as well. That initiative was created in response to the fact that up to 100,000 baptized U.S. Catholics drift away from churches each year.

The local archdiocese has about a half million parishioners, and that figure has held steady in recent years, McDonald said.

In the commercial, some young adults are seen playing football outside of Holy Name of Jesus Church on St. Charles Avenue. In a series of brief flashes, they attend Mass, talk to elderly residents and chat with Aymond outside a church door. The words “fellowship,” “service” and “faith” appear in succession on the screen.

At the end, Aymond and the students stand at the church door and Aymond says, “Come join us.” 

It is possible the ad could air before a movie that is not morally in line with the church's teachings, McDonald said. But the archdiocese wants to reach a broad audience, not just those who agree with its positions. She said the local church knows of no other diocese that has advertised in such a way.

McDonald said Aymond hopes people will see someone or something they relate to in the commercial.

“And, hopefully," she said, "they will see the church in a new way, as the smiling Catholics that Pope Francis is calling us to be.”

See the preview below: 

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.