Pet-blessing service planned

Published 8:13 pm Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Rev. Gary Barker blesses a cat during the 2009 Blessing of the Animals event at Historic St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield. This year’s blessing will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Come Saturday Historic St. Luke’s Church will be filled with four-legged friends.

Dogs, cats, hamsters, ferrets and all other pets will be welcomed into the church to celebrate the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, for the Annual Blessing of the Animals at 2 p.m.

Furry friends and their owners can attend the service, and pets will receive a blessing as part of the ceremony.

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“I think whether you are a churchgoer or not, there’s just something very touching about having your pet blessed by a clergyman,” said Charlotte Klamer, executive director of the church.

The Blessing of the Animals is a long-running tradition at St. Luke’s, located on Benns Church Boulevard in Smithfield, and this year, the Rev. Les Ferguson of St. John’s Episcopal Church will give the blessings.

While many churches have blessing for animals, Klamer said, St. Luke’s is one of the only churches in the area that allows the pets inside of the church building.

“We continue to have them inside, because it’s so charming,” she said. “You look down the aisle and see tails wagging and little faces poking out of the pews.”

Every year, about 50 dogs, a handful of cats and a few pets of other varieties come for the blessing.

All kinds of animals are welcomed, but pets should be socialized and well-behaved, Klamer said.

At the service, Ferguson will break off a piece of the church’s 200-year-old Boxwood shrub, dip it in holy water and use it to bless the pets.

“It’s a prayer service and a blessing,” Klamer said. “He blesses each animal by name.”

She said the blessing has gained popularity over the years, and there is a group of regulars that comes every year.

“The blessing has its own following, because pets truly are members of the family,” Klamer said. “Pet people are committed to everything for their pets, including taking them into a service to have them blessed.”

Although most people bring dogs and cats, all animals are welcomed.

Klamer said since she has been with the church, a variety of pets — including a hamster, a ferret, a goldfish, a horse and even a cricket — have been blessed.

Some people even bring photos of their pets if they are too sick to attend the blessing, and others have brought ashes of animals that have died.

“I think people come for the spiritual connection with their pet,” Klamer said. “They already have the emotional connection, and I think sometimes people love to have that extra connection with their pets.”

For more information on the Blessing of the Animals, call Historic St. Luke’s Church at 357-3367.