“In almost everything we do at Saint Albert, we try to introduce faith into every aspect of peoples’ lives,” said Pastor Edward Estok.
The upcoming Pet Blessing set for Oct. 6 on the front lawn of Saint Albert the Great School does just that and more, offering pet owners an opportunity to connect in faith and community and extend their religious life onto their beloved companions.
The annual event, held in honor of the Feast Day of Saint Francis, whom Catholics recognize as the patron saint of animals and pets, will begin at 2 p.m. and include short prayers, worship, song and blessing upon the gathered pets. Those in attendance will also receive blessed medals for their pets’ collars depicting an image of Saint Francis. Cosponsor North Royalton Animal Hospital will provide cat and dog treats.
The Pet Blessing event is truly a sight to see, with dozens of leashed and contained animals on site, from the small and shy to the big and boisterous and everything in between from rabbits to reptiles.
“I had hosted a pet blessing every year at a previous parish where I served and it was so well appreciated by the people that I thought St. Albert would love it too,” Estok said. “In almost everything we do at Saint Albert, we try to introduce faith into every aspect of peoples’ lives. Many people in this day and age are very attached to their pets and place a great deal of value upon them. We are hoping to awaken people’s love of God and the church by our care and concern for people in relationship to things they value.”
Estok, a pet owner himself with Buddy the Boston Terrier, teamed up with North Royalton Animal Hospital after Deborah Haley, a parishioner and employee of the hospital encouraged him to approach Director and Veterinarian Adam Hechko with the idea of a pet blessing event. It was a perfect match for the community-minded clinic.
“Whether at the clinic or out in the community, our love of pets and people are unmistakable, and fostering the bond between families and pets is our motto,” Hechko said. “We chose that because that’s how we live our lives and how we approach each time we walk into an exam room.”
Marketing Manager Deborah Haley jokingly noted that “pets of all denominations” are welcome at the blessing event.
“The way we feel about our community is deeply felt, and we are a perfect match to be part of the Annual St. Albert’s Pet Blessing,” she said. “What more can you ask for then getting your pet blessed and receiving a St. Francis of Assisi medal to wear on their collar. There is a saying when you walk into the North Royalton Animal Hospital’s front door – ‘Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened,’ that is by Anatole France. That sums it up in the way we feel about our pets that walk into our hospital, because we live up to fostering the bond between families and pets.”
Saint Francis, whose official Feast Day is Oct. 4, has a remarkable history, renouncing his family wealth and embracing a life of poverty.
“He is most famously remembered for his love of creation and especially the wild animals,” Estok explained. “His reputation in this regard comes from a canticle that he wrote, “The Canticle of the Sun,” in which he hailed all the features of God’s creation as being in relationship with him, for example, ‘brother son and sister moon.’ He is also famously remembered for the taming of the wolf in a town called Gubbio, a kind of ancient rendition of ‘horse whispering.’
Patron saints play an extremely active role in the lives of many Catholics. They are viewed as special protectors or guardians over various aspects of life, from our occupations to our hobbies and activities to our roles such as being a parent or caregiver.
“The process for being canonized is very involved but it is ultimately intended to be an encouragement to all of the faithful that a brother or sister in our midst most likely has achieved heaven’s reward,” Estok said. “From their place in heaven, the church teaches us, the Saints are involved in the praise of God and they can intercede or pray for the church on earth. Somewhere in the process between official canonization and the folk devotion of the people of God certain saints have become well noted for their intercession around particular issues in the human family. Saint Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and pets, Saint Peregrine is the patron saint of cancer patients, St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers, Saint John Vianney is the patron saint of parish priests, and so on.”
Attendees of the Oct. 6 Pet Blessing are reminded that visiting pets must be leashed and/or contained for the safety of all in attendance.
Contributing Writer