In honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron of animals and nature, Father Emmanuel Delphin blessed dogs, cats, some gerbils and even some fish.
The 7th Annual Blessing of the Animals, in recognition of Saint Francis, is a tradition that spiritual leaders and parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual Help enjoy every year. More than 150 pet owners from the church brought their pets on Saturday for the event.
“It is usually done by a visiting priest from Ireland, but he wasn’t able to come this year,” said Margaret Shapiro, parishioner and event coordinator. “Father Emmanuel Delphin was gracious enough to do the blessings this year.”
Shapiro said the Blessing of the Animals occurs in different parts of the county, too. St. Francis of Assisi was a rich man who gave up his life of luxury to pursue a life serving God. He was known for his love of animals and nature, according to Delphin.
“I started the Blessing of the Animals here about seven years ago,” Shapiro said. “They get a little Saint Francis medal for their collars.”
Delphin said it was an honor to conduct this year’s blessings, and afterward, he even wished he had pets of his own to love and bless.
“They are creatures that are created for us, and for our happiness as well,” Delphin said. “We are also being called to be good shepherds to provide for them. It’s a reciprocal kind of relationship that we have with God’s creatures where we’re supposed to be responsible.”
Donna Ganshirt, a fellow parishioner, brought Abby, her 1-year-old cockapoo. She said she’s never had a dog before, so she decided to have Abby participate in the Blessing of the Animals.
“It’s a very unique thing and I think that it honors Saint Francis of Assisi,” Ganshirt said.