The congregation at Saint Albert the Great Church got a little more varied and noisier than usual October 7 with barks, whines, yips and meows.
In honor of the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology, the Wallings Road parish held a special ceremony for the blessing of pets. Hundreds of dogs in several breeds and sizes – and even a brave cat and pet rabbit – gathered on the lawn alongside their owners to receive a blessing from Pastor Edward Estok. The special ceremony also incorporated hymnal singing, prayer and intercessions. To help commemorate the event, the staff of North Royalton Animal Hospital distributed complimentary dog treats and carnations to owners, and attendees also enjoyed apple cider and donuts. Honorary medals were also blessed and distributed.
Back for its fifth year, the annual event has quickly become a beloved tradition amongst parishioners and guests. The reason is as simple as the fact that everyone cherishes their pets.
“We gather today to honor Saint Francis and the love we all have for our fur friends,” Estok said to the large crowd gathered.
Born around 1181 in Italy, Saint Francis of Assisi was the founder of the Franciscan Order. He was born into wealth and lived an easy life early in his adolescence. He became a soldier more for prestige rather than patriotism and was taken prisoner. He was ransomed after a year, according to biographical information posted on Catholic Online, and answered a call for knights for the Fourth Crusade, again going only after glory. He had a spiritual dream of God telling him to return home and reverse his ways. He obeyed the dream, spent time in solitude and prayer and again heard the voice of God telling him to repair the church. More behavioral changes followed for Francis, including a joy and admiration for nature and animals. He cared for the poor and sick, praised all creatures and preached to animals. Famous accounts tell of birds standing still as he walked among them and a man-eating wolf becoming a pet of the townspeople. Saint Francis of Assisi died in 1226 at age 45. Millions of people make annual pilgrimages to his tomb and he is recognized across many faiths.
“They’re my everything,” said parishioner and Pet Blessing attendee Care Hupp, of her dogs Gingersnap, a miniature Poodle, and Bella, a 10-year-old Shih Tzu. The pups even came dressed for the occasion in colorful outfits.
It wasn’t only a dog day afternoon – Vivian Nellis, 8, attended the Pet Blessing with her beloved Dwarf Lop rabbit, Copper, and second grader Brynn Whitling held tight to her cat Sebastian. In true Saint Francis of Assisi style, every creature was welcomed and honored.
“We really look forward to this event mostly because of all the pets you see here,” said parishioner Julie Barbeck, attending with her husband, Craig, daughters Alyssa and Sabrina, and their Border Collie Maisy. “It’s really a very nice way to gather.”


Contributing Writer