Catholic Charities’ campaign asks ‘Who is your neighbor?’

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Thursday, July 13, 2017

This billboard for Catholic Charities featuring Chicago Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville can be seen at 169th Street along the Bishop Ford Expressway. The billboard is part of a larger media awareness campaign the agency launched as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations. Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic

To mark its 100th anniversary, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago launched a media awareness campaign centered on the parable of the Good Samaritan that is running advertisements on radio, billboards, CTA buses and L stations, newspapers and social media.

“It’s something we’ve never done before,” said Msgr. Michael Boland, president and CEO of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness of the work that the agency does serving more than 1 million people a year throughout Cook and Lake counties. The archdiocese’s agency is the largest Catholic Charities in the country; someone comes to one of their offices once every 30 seconds.

Chicago business and sports leaders such as Cubs manager Joe Maddon, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and Wintrust Bank founder and CEO Edward Wehmer are featured in some of the ads.

The campaign will run until April 2018 with fewer ads during summer months.

“A lot of people are really grateful that Catholic Charities is doing the campaign because they support Catholic Charities and they would like more people to know about our mission and the people that we serve,” Boland said.

Tom DeMint, a retired advertising executive from the international J. Walter Thompson agency, helped to develop the brand campaign message.

DeMint’s relationship with Catholic Charities dates to the 1960s when then-executive director Msgr. Vincent Cooke came “barreling in” to J. Walter Thompson’s offices.

“I don’t know where he got my name. He demanded to see me and he said, ‘I want an advertising campaign and I want it for nothing,’” DeMint recalled. Out of that meeting came a campaign called “For Christ’s sake, give,” which received media attention given the play on words. He’s been part of Catholic Charities’ communications committee ever since.

Many non-profits today are asking for money, especially in Illinois, where the budget stalemate forced numerous social-service agencies to close because of lack of state funding. The frequent appeals for financial support cause “compassion fatigue,” DeMint said.

“How much more can you absorb from sad stories?” DeMint asked. “So instead of focusing on the sad stories … I just thought it was better if we talked about the way Catholic Charities thinks.”

For inspiration he turned to the parable of Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho and the question “Who is my neighbor?”

“Catholic Charities is Chicago’s Good Samaritan. That road from Jerusalem to Jericho happens now to go through the terrible, blood-strewn streets of Chicago,” he said.

The campaign started with “teaser” parish bulletin ads asking, “Who is my neighbor?” The first newspaper ad had copy that answered the question.

“We are ALL neighbors in God’s eyes. We are all on the same road of life. The poor, the hungry, the jobless, the hopeless — all beaten down. Will you help us lift up our neighbors? Will you be a Good Samaritan and help today?” the ad reads.

They followed up with a print ad featuring a photo of the Chicago skyline where a gun barrel replaced one of the skyscrapers. The headline reads “The High Rise That’s Killing Your Neighbors.”

“It may not be your neighborhood, but the people we care for are your neighbors in God’s eyes,” the text of the ad reads.

“We’re just trying to get out the idea that your neighbor is who you see on the horrible 10 o’clock news every night. They’re that close to you,” DeMint said.

For information about Catholic Charities 100th anniversary celebrations, visit


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