Updated: Aug 8
It is with pride and joy I present to you the next member of Team Do Good, the mighty John Bencivenga. I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate John here via Tampa Bless and Team Do Good. His willingness to participate in this feature and to provide feedback is highly appreciated. And now, without further ado...
Name: John W. Bencivenga
Place of birth: New York, New York
Currently reside: Tampa, Florida
Heritage: My dad’s family is Italian. My mom’s family is Irish.
Family: Wife - Chris; 4 boys - John, Thomas, James, Matthew
Alma Mater: The United States Military Academy at West Point (BS) 1986 and Florida State University (JD) 1995.
Occupation: Husband, Father, Lawyer (I would like to think in that order).
Activities you organized or participate in related to helping others and uplifting humanity? I realize this is an uncomfortable question to answer because it feels self-promotional, yet it's important to share so to inspire others:
I have spent a lot of time assisting in activities with my parish church, Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Tampa. For about 20 years, I have participated or led a Men’s Bible Study on Saturday mornings and have assisted with running an Annual Men’s Retreat for the parish. Over the years, I have taught religious education (CCD) to kids ranging from 2nd grade to 8th grade. I have walked with several men on their journey to enter the Roman Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process. I served as a Eucharistic Minister and delivered the Blessed Sacrament to patients on the cancer floor at Tampa General Hospital for 4 or 5 years. I am a former Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Council for the parish and served as a council officer for many years. I am currently on the Parish Council. When my boys were enrolled at Christ the King Parish School, I was on the School Board Council, served different roles from Den Leader on up with the Cubs Scouts and Boys Scouts, and was involved in the Dad’s Club over the years. I am pretty sure I am leaving items out, but in a nutshell, I am pretty active in my local church.
The Tampa Bless 12
1) Favorite pastime or hobby? Why? Please explain.
Top pastime: Sitting on the couch, watching TV, and eating. I like to have easy goals, so I can feel successful. I also love sitting on the beach with my wife and kids while watching the sunset, drinking a scotch, and smoking a cigar. I try to succeed at this pastime as often as possible.
2) Favorite sport, team, or player? If not into sports, your favorite musician or album? Or answer one of each if you’d like or any combo. Please explain why for any one or more of the questions you answered.
The NY Mets. It is humbling to root for the Mets. It involves Hope, Faith, and Prayers. A lot of prayers. Obviously, in life sometimes prayers are not answered, but I think God still hears them. This also does not mean my prayers don’t bear fruit simply because the Mets have not won a World Series since 1986. There is a bond among Met fans, like “I know your pain, brother… I have been there too.” That shared misery connects all Met fans in a special way. All Met fans are waiting for that day (hopefully in the not so distant future), when the Met’s win another World Series, so that we can all celebrate together. I hope for this moment. I have faith that it will occur. I believe that moment of joy will be a glimpse of how Heaven feels… especially, because there will be no Yankee fans around. Let’s Go Mets!
3) Favorite movie? Why? Please explain.
I enjoy most Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler movies. Tommy Boy is a favorite, so is Joe Dirt. Based on this list, I assume my choice in movies are fairly self-evident. I am a big fan of the stupid, potty humor movies that lack any serious artistic value because they make me laugh. The one movie I will always stop on when channel surfing besides these silly movies is… The Godfather (1 or 2).
4) Favorite place (country, city, town, etc…) you have visited and why?
Memphis, TN. A few years ago I had a health scare there. So, my heart will always be in Memphis, TN. Other places… the beach at sunset with my family. Finally, there is a spot in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It is up the stairs at Calvary (actually by the stairs that take pilgrims down) towards the back of the Greek Crucifixion Chapel. There is a chair that you can sit in, with your back towards the Holy Cross, and look out past the Stone of Anointing and towards Christ’s tomb in the Edicule. If you go there very early in the morning, before the crowds arrive, it is an awesome place to sit and think about Christ’s sacrifice and the incredible gift He gave us. It is a very special place.
5) Last meal? You could have anything, what is it? Why? Please explain.
Any meal. I am an equal-opportunity eater. It is not what, but with whom. It would be with my wife and my kids. Just sitting around the table eating and laughing.
6) Three activities or routines you would highly recommend? Please explain your reasoning for each.
1. Tell your wife and your kids you love them, often. Walking out the door. Coming home from work. Kids leaving to go hang out with friends, “See you later, I love you.” Talking to them on the phone, I think this is the way to end all calls. I think this is an important routine all husbands and dads need to do.
2. Pray. Saying basic prayers or just talking to God about personal problems, thanking God, and asking God to help the world. Having a relationship with God through prayer is very important. There are a lot of issues going on right now in the world. I have no idea how to solve them. But, I am pretty sure that they will not be solved without our prayers. You have to make time each day to pray.
3. Spiritual reading and service to others. I am always amazed when I meet highly educated people, who have graduated from very elite universities but have absolutely no knowledge of scripture, much less the writings of Saints, Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church, and other men and women of faith. I feel having a routine of reading the writings of these holy people and then putting these words into action is a very important element of my life.
7) A) Personality trait you highly value? Why? Please explain. B) The personality trait you highly dislike? Why? Please explain.
A. Humility. Humble people... get to inherit the earth. Seriously, the opposite of humility is pride, which I feel is the root sin. Being humble really involves understanding the importance and value of others. Putting others first. It is also a key to love (not the emotion but the verb), which is doing the good for the other, not for yourself but for the other’s sake.
B. Selfishness. People who are self-centered and are focused on themselves are missing out on so much in the world.
8) Favorite thinker (author, philosopher, theologian, etc…)? Why? Please explain. And what is your favorite piece of advice, quote, or text from them or in general? Why? Please explain.
I don’t think I can narrow it down like that. For example, over the last few years, I have read (and watched) a lot of material from Bishop Barron. He led me to Saint Thomas Aquinas, who in turn led me to Aristotle. So, you read one person and that opens the door to others and so on. I do have a few favorite prayers. The Prayer of St Francis of Assisi is up there. Number one for me is the Peace Prayer of St. Francis de Sales. It is a simple reminder to me that God is everywhere, and that there is no reason to fear things because He is constantly with us.
9) Biggest influence in your life or a top one, and what was it about them that really stood out?
My mom. My father passed away when I was going into third grade, and my mom essentially sacrificed her entire life to raise four young kids. She is the model of selflessness that I aspire to be.
10) If there is one thing you could change in the world, what would it be?
There are so many serious things that I would change in the world. Cure cancer, end racism, exposes communism and socialism for what it really is, solve the crisis of faith in our current generation where so many practicing Catholics (those who actually go to church) do not understand or believe in the Real Presence. There are so many areas. Maybe it is better to respond to this question in a more lighthearted way. I am a traditionalist and I would get rid of the designated hitter rule in baseball. I think pitchers should hit.
11) Where did your desire to help others and uplift humanity come from? Please explain.
I think my parents, aunts and uncles. I think the people who helped raise me instilled in me a sense that it is important to serve others. Not only does this benefit our community, but serving other people really benefits each of us. I had a co-worker once and I asked her to come serve lunch meals at Trinity Café to homeless people. She was a very unhappy person who was down all the time. She said, “No way. I don’t want to go by those people.” Her comment really hit me. I am not exactly sure why she was such a negative person in her life, but I am 100% sure that she would be a much happier person if she served others.
12) What are you working on now and how can people get involved?
There are so many young kids and young adults who have no real knowledge of their faith. Sure, they may know the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Maybe they remember their Act of Contrition. However, many have not been to confession since 8th grade. Before that, it was 2nd grade. It is actually really sad and a serious problem. This lack of faith and lack of a relationship with God, I think, is based on a serious lack of faith knowledge and faith formation in parents. What makes this even sadder is that I now see a lot of these kids going off to college and because they never had a solid faith formation, all the garbage their college professors feed them is taken in and accepted as truth. These kids regurgitate this garbage back to their college professors for good grades and before you know it, they are completely indoctrinated into a belief structure that is so far away from the actual Truth, they are lost without even knowing it. Moral relativism is next, then something bad happens to them and because they never had a serious relationship with God, they feel abandoned or question God’s existence. It is as if they are all Prodigal Sons, who have collectively lost their way, but have not yet come to the realization as to where they are.
I think the way to address this issue of lack of faith with the current generation is to first, help others get educated on the richness of our faith. Not the “watered down” faith formation from the 70s and 80s that messed up so many of my peers. But real faith formation that addresses tough questions. That is where I am trying to focus now. I really believe people who are armed with the Truth and knowledge of our faith need to get to work at exposing and correcting the flawed positions that so many young adults (through their own ignorance) have come to believe is correct.
Thank you so much for your time John and for all that you do. The place we live in is that much better because of you. I hope that this feature has served to inspire you, as well as successfully celebrate those that help others and uplift humanity.
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