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Joyful Spirit Gifts in Arlington to close its doors

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There is little doubt that the sexual abuse scandal in the church has had repercussions. Some people have walked away from the church and others are dealing with feelings of hurt and anger. 

For three local Catholic stores, the owners say the scandal has meant less sales and the closing of one. 

Meg Rydzewski, owner of Joyful Spirit in Arlington, will close her doors at the end of December after four and a half years. 

Rydzewski said there are multiple reasons for the closure, but she believes the final straw was the July resignation of former Washington Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and the Pennsylvania grand jury report issued in August. 

“We concluded we really needed to close the store given the news flow is not going to improve any time soon based on all the investigations,” she said. 

Other reasons include difficulty getting word out about the store and low sales in church goods.

Rydzewski hopes people will take advantage of deep discounts as she prepares to close the door. Items 50 percent off through Dec. 15; and 80 percent from Dec. 15 until the end of the year. Everything, including shelves and fixtures must go. 

“It’s been a very rewarding time. I’ve enjoyed the many conversations I’ve had with customers and positive relationships with several of the local parishes,” said Rydzewski. “I’ll really miss the interaction.”

She remains optimistic but said the store can't wait for the news to turn more positive. 

“It’s been a special place to be in, a very peaceful environment,” said Rydzewski.

Longtime customer and Arlington resident Jessica Terner came to the store for a gift for a friend. She said she was sad about the closure. “We loved having a shop in Arlington,” she said. “This store has unique things, such as tasteful statues and gifts. I’ll miss it, but I know it’s been a lot of work for the owners. I just wish they had more customers.”

Cecilia Balog, co-owner of the Paschal Lamb in Fairfax, open 31 years, said her store also saw a decrease in sales in August and September. “We assumed (the crisis) was what it was about,” she said. “Sales rebounded in October and November, so it is hard to say if it is (certain) we will do a lot better or a lot worse.”

Balog hesitates to blame the church but has faith in her customers.

“In a sense, the feeling is that we have wonderful customers and perhaps a good number of them were disillusioned or upset,” she said. “But they are good solid Catholic folks who realize we are only part of the church that provides them with everything they need to lead a good life.”

“We try to help customers understand that we are not Amazon or a big online business,” said Balog. “We’ve been through a lot and hope to do this as long as we can. We are thankful for the many customers that we’ve had over the years and hope we’ve been part of the new evangelization in some way.”

Sister Joan Paula, manager of Daughters of St. Paul’s Pauline Books in Alexandria, said the store saw a little dip in sales. 

“People are a little more cautious. It’s a cross between if it’s the economy or the church,” she said. “Those that come in are very concerned, some are hurt, but they are still coming and trying to bolster their faith.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018