Austrian Vocations Campaign Takes to the Streets

Launching the billboard campaign on Tuesday, Klaus Kueng, St. Polten’s bishop, described the lack of interest in the priesthood as “a huge problem.” But Lukas Leitner, whose advertising agency developed the project, was optimistic that his strategy would bear fruit.

Eighty large billboards and 300 smaller electric placards are being mounted in the province of 1.6 million people. One depicts a priest, a deacon and a nun flanked by other church workers. Another shows laymen and women. Larger than life, their gaze is serene, their message simple: “The Mission. Those who give all receive even more.” A link takes the curious to a home page that tells them who these people are and why they are committed to the church.

There have been more controversial campaigns. Recruitment billboards graphically depicting Christ’s agony in the 1980s in Toronto drew outrage from some, while the Trinitarian Fathers advertised in Playboy and Rolling Stone in the 1970s.

But Leitner says the concept is deliberately low-key, reflecting Catholic clergy and laypeople “as the heroes of everyday life — which they truly are, with so many different traits and skills.”

“From there,” he says, “we developed the concept to simply stage people of the church — priests and laymen — like in a blockbuster in a movie theater.”

Kueng also suggests people will relate to the simplicity of the message, and to the men and women delivering it.

“The placards show real people … who are joyfully working for the church and are ready to show it by putting their faces to the camera.”







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