Pets to be blessed

Published 10:22 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Historic St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield will host its annual blessing ceremony for four-legged friends this weekend.
On Sunday, the Blessing of the Animals event, celebrated in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, proclaimed as the patron saint of animals, welcomes furry pets of all sizes.

The Rev. Connie Gilman of Christ Episcopal Church in Smithfield will conduct the blessing. Typically, the pets are blessed with a piece of the church’s 200-year-old boxwood shrub, which is dipped in holy water.

Pet blessings like these are common among local churches. However, St. Luke’s is one of the few to allow pets inside the church building.

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The event, sponsored by the Oaks Veterinary Clinic and Smithfield Animal Hospital,
typically attracts 50 to 60 people each year, according to Joseph Tapia, marketing coordinator at St. Luke’s.

In the past, pet owners have brought photos of their pets if they were too sick to attend. Others have brought in the ashes of their pets to receive a blessing.

There will be a host of activities and vendors on the grounds.

At 1:30 p.m., local author Fran Olsen will read his book, “Lili of St. Luke’s,” which gives a history of a dog belonging to one of the church’s first groundskeepers, according to Tapia. There will also be a photo booth available for owners to capture memories with their pets.

“There is definitely a social element,” Tapia said.

Additionally, Pawsitive Attitudes will give obedience and training demonstrations on-site. Also, the Isle of Wight County Humane Society is offering on-site pet adoptions, Horse and Hound will be selling wares and Gimme Shelter representatives will be in attendance.

The event will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and is free to the public. The blessings will be conducted on a rolling basis from 2 to 4 p.m.
St. Luke’s is encouraging donations to purchase a bronze plaque for the Lili statue, located by the church’s welcome center.

For more information about the event, contact Kristen Marchant at 357-3367 or at