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Churches honor St. Francis with pet blessings

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is offering a gift to the community: pet blessings.

On Oct. 6, the DeKalb-based church is inviting not only churchgoers but everyone to bring along any animals or pets they wish to have blessed. The Rev. Stacy Walker-Frontjes said the pet blessing ceremony is Christian in nature but the whole community is welcome. 

“We’re just recognizing the spiritual connection people have through their pets and also the importance of pets in family life,” she said. 

But St. Paul’s isn’t the only church in the area offering blessings for pets. Several other churches are holding their own ceremonies as part of Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, which is on Oct. 4. Pets are typically blessed on this day because of St. Francis’s love for animals.

The Newman Catholic Student Center in DeKalb will hold its pet blessing at 1:15 p.m. Oct. 13 on the front lawn of the church, said Cheryl Lehman, director of religious education and youth minister for the church. 

All pets are welcome and Lehman said it’s an event not to be missed by animal lovers. She said dog and cat treats will be available for people who bring their pets.

Lehman said she thinks the pet blessing is mainly for children as they are taught to be thankful for everything in their lives and pets play a role in them.

“It’s a fantastic way to bring God into their lives through their pets,” she said. 

Usually 40 to 50 people bring their animals, which can be dogs, cats, hamsters or rabbits. Deacon Jim Dombek will officiate the ceremony that includes songs and readings from the Bible. 

St. Mary Catholic Church in DeKalb will have its pet blessing at 9:45 a.m. Oct. 5. Father Jim Parker may officiate the ceremony, said Linda Gile, administrative assistant for the church.

Just as with other churches, all animals are welcome. In one case, an iguana was brought to be blessed at church, Gile said.

“[Pets] are a great comfort for people and for sick people and elderly people,” she said. “People just love animals. They give the gift of joy and comfort.” 

Walker-Frontjes said St. Paul’s pet ceremony, which is the fifth one thus far, will take place at 1 p.m. at the front yard of the church if the weather is good. TAILS Humane Society plans to bring its pet of the week to be blessed at the ceremony, she said. 

There will be prayers, readings from the Book of Genesis in the Bible and a short homily. Prayers will be customized for each pet. She said if people want to bring pictures, especially of deceased pets, they can. 

“If someone’s animal dies, that is a real loss to them and we should support them in their grief,” she said.

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