St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is Oct. 4, is known as the patron saint of animals.
Many parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and around the world celebrate the saint by offering animal blessings on or near his feast day. Several diocesan parishes had their traditional pet blessing service this year in spite of the ongoing health emergency.
At St. Joseph Parish in Cuyahoga Falls, more than 40 pets and their families turned out for the blessing on Sept. 27, which was performed by Deacon Kent Davis. Primarily cats and dogs – and at least one turtle -- received a blessing,
This year, in addition to the traditional pet blessing, families were able to have a photo taken with their pet at the parish’s St. Francis photo stop. Children created picture frames for the photos. Snacks and beverages were provided by the Knights of Columbus for this outside, socially distanced event.
The following weekend, Oct. 3-4, several more parishes had their blessing ceremony.
On Oct. 3, St. Patrick Parish and St. Vincent de Paul Parish, both located in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood, blessed cats and dogs of parishioners. Father Clyde Foster, senior parochial vicar at both parishes, presided at the St. Patrick event. Father John Pfeifer, pastor of both parishes, offered the blessing at St. Vincent de Paul. This year’s blessing was special for him because his dog, Angel, was among those receiving a blessing. He adopted her shortly after last year’s pet blessing.
At St. Bridget of Kildare Parish in Parma, Father Rob Wisniewski, pastor, and Deacon Jim Armstrong, blessed several dozen cats and dogs and a hamster. Parishioners whose animals were not able to be at the event were invited to bring photos of them so they could be included. St. Francis medals were available.
“Our pets are important and we do our best to love and care for them,” Father Wisniewski said, adding that they become part of our family.