Animal magnetism: Pets blessed by clergy in annual tradition

It was raining cats and dogs — sort of.

Brooklynites weathered the rain and gloomy climate conditions this past Saturday morning outside St. Anselm Church in Bay Ridge to have their beloved pets blessed at the annual “Blessing of the Animals” event.

Several churches across the borough participated this week in the yearly tradition, commemorating the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment.

And while all pets are typically welcome — furry, scaly, and feathery — the majority of participants blessed at St. Anselm were dogs.

Pastor Rev. Fr. John Hwang greeted and blessed the animals and their owners, dousing the pets with holy water.

“All animals are creatures of God,” Hwang told this newspaper. “We have to take care of them like they take care of us; we must love them the way they love us. That said, it’s very important for them to be blessed.” 

Mavic Padilla, who came to have her dog Molly blessed and was among the first in line for the event, said that as “a pure Catholic,” this is quite significant.  

Mavic Padilla and her dog Molly.

“Last year I didn’t have a chance to do this,” Padilla explained, “and I had to make it happen this year, regardless of the fact that it’s rainy outside; my Molly deserves this.”

Another community canine, Nike, along with her owners Alicia and Ed, came out simply because, “she’s just a puppy, and we wanted her to experience other dogs, be blessed, and just have fun.

“This is our first time doing this, and it’s great for the animals, the owners, and the community,” Alicia explained.  

Bob Kassenbrock, a member of the parish pastoral planning council, noted that St. Anselm was one of the first Catholic parishes in Bay Ridge to start celebrating St. Francis.

Bob Kassenbrock and Eileen Loughlin, members of the parish pastoral planning council at St. Anselm

“It’s become a lot more popular now than it was, say, 10 or 20 years ago,” Kassenbrock said. “And it brings people together in a very positive way.”

Eileen Loughlin, also with the pastoral planning council, said that the event is a nice way to show how we appreciate what animals do for us, “whether they are work animals, or for comfort and companionship, it’s a nice way to celebrate that union, and bless them.”  

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