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October 6, 2013

Bless them all, great and small

Owners have animals blessed in name of St. Francis

TERRE HAUTE — Dogs, cats and a rat (and their owners) gathered at a downtown church Saturday morning to ask for God’s blessings.

Surrounded by trees and plants at the south lawn of St. Joseph University Parish, more than a dozen pets and their owners participated in the annual blessing, celebrated on the Saturday closest to the feast day of St. Francis.

“St. Francis is the patron of God’s creation,” said Friar Mark Weaver, who led the blessing.

“He was such a friend not only to people but also to all of creation,” Weaver said adding that the saint referred to animals, the sun, the moon, and others, as brothers and sisters.

Born in 1181 at a small town in Italy, St. Francis of Assisi is the founder of the Franciscan Order. He is the patron saint of animals, merchants and ecology. His feast day is Oct. 4.

And a day after the saint’s feast day, the small group gathered to “pray for the pets and their owners,” Weaver said.

Although people come for a variety of reasons, all of them come to “just be thankful for them [the pets] and ask God to keep them well,” Weaver said.

Pets, he said, are very much part of the family for most people.

One family came to ask for blessing for Harry, a 5-year-old golden doodle.

“He’s had some medical issues this year,” said owner Jason Ireland, who was accompanied by his wife, Bridget and son Aidan.

“He needs blessed. ...He’s part of our family,” Bridget said.

After all the participants have gathered in a circle, Weaver led the prayer to “bless these creatures who will be companions for us in the journey of life.”

Afterwards, he went to each pet and sprinkled them with Holy Water.

And as Weaver approached, young Brendan held out Jumpers, his pet rat.

“What a beautiful rat,” Weaver said after blessing the rat.

Brendan said it feels “nice” to have Jumpers blessed.

“For a while, she hasn’t got much attention,” the boy said.

For his mom, Colleen Magnuson, it’s the start of a family tradition.

“We like to participate in our faith as much as possible,” she said.

Magnuson, who also brought younger kids Jack and Gretchen to the blessing, said she also got her pets blessed on St. Francis’ feast day as a child.

“I admire St. Francis a lot. ... It’s neat to pass it along to my kids,” she said.

Another attendee was Mary Caye Pfister, who was with Paulie, a brussels griffon rescued from a puppy mill two years ago.

“The blessings are so good for everybody including our favorite companions,” Pfister said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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