2014-09-25 / Faith Community

Pet Blessings Abound

By James Merolla

You never know what you might hear at St. Augustin’s Annual Pet Blessing on the first Sunday in October – it might be barking or mewing, the whispered name of a deceased pet in prayer, or a medley from “My Fair Lady.”

In its 11th year, the pet blessing will be held on Sunday, Oct. 5, to coincide with the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals. The blessing will take place at King’s Park, at the corner of Clinton Street and Wellington Avenue at noon. All pets must be properly restrained and accompanied by at least one adult.

Patricia Healey held the first blessing in 2003 with Father McKenna of St. Lucy’s Church in Middletown. Since that first year, Father Michael Malone of Salve Regina University has presided. “I chose the gazebo at King Park because it seemed a perfect place to honor St. Francis, in the outdoors which he so loved. St. Francis loves all of God’s creatures, the birds of the sky, fish of the sea, dogs, cats; they all are under his care. The St. Francis Feast Day is Oct. 4 every year. I chose the first Sunday of October for our celebration each year, to be near his Feast Day.”

Recently, St. Francis has also been named the Patron Saint of the Ecology and the Environment. “We call him our ‘First Environmentalist,’” she added.

The event has grown from 10 animals (nearly all dogs) to about 40 this year, said Healey, with several other animal blessing events taking place in October. Exotic pets are discouraged. “We usually have dogs or cats at the blessing. One year, we had a little girl bring a bunny. Another time, the Newport Police brought two dogs from their canine unit. That was fascinating, such amazing, alert dogs, politely waiting for a command from the policeman who brought them,” she said. Several of the same dogs appear each year, and guests look forward to seeing them once more.

Healey said that the most touching part of the ceremony is the prayer recited for all deceased pets. “Each person who has a pet he or she wants remembered says his or her name. I repeat each name for Father who prays a special prayer for them. Some people bring pictures or ashes of their beloved lost pet.”

Lest you think the event is maudlin, however, there is a show and tell. “We have funny songs we sing to our living pals. One is called, ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Fur.’ It is sung to the tune of the song from ‘My Fair Lady,’ ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face.’ Everyone loves that,” laughed Healey.

For more information, call Healey at 401-588-1263 or visit staugustinnewport.org.

St. Peter’s Blessing

Bring a lawn chair or blanket and join in the Blessing of the Animals on Saturday, Oct. 4, at St. Peter’s Luthern Church, 525 Broadway. Dogs are asked to be on leashes and cats in carriers. Blessing will be at 10 a.m. Refreshments for pets and people will follow.

Feast of St. Francis

Emmanuel Church will welcome all creatures great and small to the Feast of St. Francis at the start of the 10 a.m. service on Oct. 5. All are invited to bring one leashed or caged pet to church for a blessing. All animals will gather in the library at 9:45 a.m. to be a part of the procession into church.

Potter League

The public is welcome to bring their pets (dogs, cat, rabbits, etc.) to the Potter League on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. The brief outdoor ceremony will be officiated by The Rev. Susan Wrathall, Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Warwick. It will be moved to the Potter League’s training center in the case of inclement weather. For more information, contact Nancy Wrathall at 401-846-8276 or visit potterleague.org.

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