R.I.P. Benny’s


Another Rhode Island institution is about to close its doors forever. Benny’s, the local go-to store for everything from spark plugs to kitchenware will soon be consigned to that category of closed institutions in the Ocean State that only serve as reference points in giving confused directions: “Pass the old Almacs, take a right at the street where Ann & Hope used to be, and park in front of the building that used to be Benny’s.”

The owners have pointed to increased use of online shopping platforms, among other things, for the decision to shutter the stores. Another phenomenon could be that many people simply presumed the presence of a local Benny’s store when they needed things like air conditioners and tires, but those kinds of items aren’t needed on a daily basis. Alas, a store can’t survive on that kind of customer base alone. Of course, there were the faithful shoppers who visited more often, perhaps even weekly, but obviously not enough to keep the operation afloat.

Consider now that many people in Rhode Island think of the Church in the same way they thought of Benny’s. “It’s always there when I need it, whether for a funeral or a wedding, or when a relative is sick or dying.” But that kind of retail mentality with regard to our faith is entirely foreign to the Gospel. There is no sustaining of a parish community or any real participation in the robust life of the Church with that kind of thinking. Loyalty to our faith in the Gospel, to our Catholic identity, to our local parish community, is a daily requirement. No work of the Church can be sustained by a once or twice-a-year shopper. It requires real investors in mission. We need to invest our time, talent and treasure more directly into the daily working of the Church, or we’ll have to get used to directing out-of-towners to places where our parish communities used to be.