Magazine article U.S. Catholic

We've Got a Winner Here; Loved and Hated Equally, Bingo Is a Mainstay of Catholicism. (Practicing Catholic)

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

We've Got a Winner Here; Loved and Hated Equally, Bingo Is a Mainstay of Catholicism. (Practicing Catholic)

Article excerpt

IT COMES AS A TRIUMPHANT SHOUT, A RISING CRY, arms outstretched, hands aloft. Or maybe it's a quavering, questioning stammer, doubting even as it proclaims the victory. Whether it comes from a gravelly voiced grandma, a gruff construction worker, a teen, or a child, it doesn't matter. When the dots line up across, vertical, or diagonal, the prize is yours, you've won the game. You get to holler, "Bingo?

Bingo is a mainstay of Catholicism, decried by as many as laud it, loved and hated equally. Still, it's really fun, and in some cases it beats out rummage sales, potluck suppers, and even Sunday Mass for packing in the people and racking up the revenue. If church is about gathering, then bingo is the name of the game.

My mom still goes; her 87 years won't keep her away. "That's what God gave me a car for," she says, snapping on her driving gloves. I've known her all my life, and she's always gone to bingo. "It's part of the church," she says. And it is, as much as Friday night devotions, Wednesday Bible study, or the novena to the saint du jour. When Thursday night rolls around, it's time for bingo.

"And the $35,000 a year extra is nothing to sneeze at," the pastor of the church where Mom plays told me. Don't I know it. Where I once served as an assistant pastor, bingo was the financial cornerstone. Without it, our poor, urban parish would have gone right down the tubes with no survivors.

In fact, bingo got its foothold in this country by bailing out a financially strapped church. In 1929, a New York toy salesman by the name of Edwin Lowe came across a game being played at a carnival in Jacksonville, Kentucky. Called, "Beano," it was a variation of the classic Italian game of Lotto, involving a card with numbers printed on it and a pile of beans. A number was called out and if a player had the number on his card he'd cover it with a bean. When he got a row of beans lined up across his card, he'd call out "Beano!" and win a Kewpie doll.

Lowe returned to New York, made up some cards, got some beans, gathered a few friends, and tried out the game on them. By the time the last number was called, the tension was so high that the winner flubbed the shout and, instead of "Beano," cried out "Bingo! …

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