It was raining cats and dogs at Fontbonne Hall Academy’s First Annual Pet Blessing. October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, and many parishes observe the occasion by holding a ceremony at which priests bless the animals in attendance to give them protection for the year.
The event at the Bay Ridge high school, 9901 Shore Road, was held on Saturday, October 4, and was well attended despite the wet weather and the ceremony being held outdoors. In addition to several dogs, there were also a few feline friends brought to the blessing.
“These animals are a special source of blessing for us,” said Father Richard Bretone, who blessed the pets as a group and individually. “They’re beautiful companions and they give us unconditional love, and we take care of them because of that. They remind us so much of God’s inviting love for us.” Bretone also brought his own dog, Buddy, to the blessing.
Dog (and human) treats were provided for all who attended. Bay Ridgeites were happy to bond with their beloved pets. “It means so much,” said Bernadette McLaughlin, who brought her dog Nolan. “He’s a part of our family and just to know that he’s getting a blessing today makes you feel happy and secure. He brings such comfort to us.”
“They’re part of our family. So we want to make sure we pray for them and God is looking after them,” added Fontbonne graduate Danielle Long.
The event was sponsored by the Congregation of Saint Joseph. Sister Helen Herley explained the enthusiasm of the community. “We try to sponsor activities that will carry out the congregation’s mission, one of which is reverence for all creation,” she said. “Some of the owners were here early so it means a lot to them. This is our first, but it will be the first of many more we hope.”
Over at Our Lady of Angels, 337 74th Street, the blessing was held on Sunday, October 5. Father Jason Espinal blessed each dog individually inside the building.
“It went very nicely. I’ve taken my dog since they started years ago to blessed, that way Saint Francis watches over him,” said attendee Margaret Bauch, who had her dog Winston blessed. “Being that I’m Catholic and went to Our Lady of Angels, it means lot to me. He’s not 100 percent well, so it gives me peace to know that he’s been blessed. I think it gives him some peace too.”
The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Fourth Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway, also held its annual pet blessing on October 5. The church allowed dogs and cats to attend the service, which lasted over an hour.
“It went beautifully. Before the service, the pets were making noise. Once it started, they were so quiet,” said Eileen Josenhans, church treasurer. “It’s our way of acknowledging our love for all animals. We love our pets.”
The church also gave out medals to the pets that were blessed and held a coffee hour afterwards. “You could feel the love,” Josenhans stressed. “It’s a way we can honor the love we have for them. I love that service. It’s so special.”