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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Priest once was million-dollar ad man"

From a press release:

By Leita Crossfield
Herald Writer

SHORELINE -- Father Bob Camuso likes to tell people he's still in advertising, only now he has just one client and he doesn't worry about getting paid.

Camuso, the former pastor at St. Thomas More in Lynnwood, is a priest and the voice behind "Conversations with Father Bob," an internationally broadcast radio program he created in 2004. The program is heard on stations from Seattle to Baltimore and from Texas to Toronto. It's also on the Internet.

Camuso wasn't always Father Bob.

For the first 20 years of his career, Camuso was an art director creating million-dollar-advertising campaigns for clients of some of the world's largest advertising agencies. He started his career working at Ogilvy & Mather in New York City under legendary ad man David Ogilvy. Later, he co-founded his own ad agency in Seattle.

In 1992, that all changed.

That's when Camuso was ordained by the Archdiocese of Seattle.

"I went to his ordination at St. James on First Hill, and it was spectacular," said Larry Asher, Camuso's former business partner in the ad firm Asher and Camuso Advertising in Seattle, and now president of Worker Bees in Seattle.

"Advertising is this kind of glamorous field, life in the fast lane, hard-drinking, hard-living," Asher said. "Bob was no goody two-shoes. So I think some people couldn't put it together, but if you knew Bob, it totally made sense."

Camuso grew up in the Catholic church.

At 16 -- when young men start thinking about their futures -- he said he stopped going to church.

For more than 20 years, Camuso said he turned his back on God to live his own life -- first graduating from high school, then joining the Navy, then going to art school and finally working as an art director in New York and Seattle.

In 1977, things began to change.

"I realized I was on a spiritual search. I was searching for God but I didn't know it at the time," Camuso said. "I decided to get off the fence when I came to Seattle. I finally met someone who invited me to church. When I left Mass to go home, I felt uncomfortable but I knew I had to go back."

At 40, he wasn't married. He was hanging around with priests. He knew he needed to do something.

"We don't always know what our calling is 100 percent," Camuso said. "Now, looking back, I can say this is what I was meant to do, 100 percent."

He went to seminary school and became a priest. Now he serves as the pastor at St. Luke's Parish in Shoreline, where he looks after more than 1,000 Catholic families, mostly from the Richmond Beach area. He was assigned there in July after being in Lynnwood for three years.

During the height of the priest-sex abuse scandals, in the early part of this decade, Camuso said he felt troubled about the dark cloud overhanging the church.

At the time, he appeared on a Catholic television show. A producer who was a friend told him the television camera "really likes you but would you like to do a radio program?" Camuso said.

He declined at first, but agreed after she kept asking him during the next six months. He's been doing it ever since.

At a taping at KKNW studios in Bellevue last Monday, Camuso quizzed two Snohomish County teens about attending World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia with Pope Benedict XVI. The show is scheduled to air today.

During the interview, Camuso let the teens, Paul Dellino, 17, of Snohomish High School and Sam Mostovoy, 17, of Edmonds-Woodway describe their experience at a gathering of 500,000 Catholic youth.

He prompted them with questions to keep the pace of the show going.

Like an art director, Camuso carefully orchestrates his weekly radio broadcasts and the homilies he delivers at Mass with the precision he once used to create attention-grabbing ads.

"When I'm writing my homilies, I think, 'They could change the channel on me,'" he said. "I was so trained in that. When you're spending a million dollars on a 30-second commercial spot and you have to capture the attention of an audience in three seconds or less, you learn how to do that."

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