Bless the beasts: Churches reach out to local pet owners

October 5, 2018

BULLHEAD CITY — For many, the connection between pet owners and their pets is familial.

“Some people have a deep affection for their animals,” said Rev. Lionel Starkes, pastor of Holy Spirit Episcopal Church. “For some people, their animals are as close as their children.”

So it made sense, he said, to mark the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi with an animal blessing ceremony.

“We wanted to recognize the attachment between the person and the pet,” Starkes said. “That love attachment.”

The going was slow Thursday morning, with Starkes blessing mostly dogs and two tortoises, he said.

In the afternoon, eucharistic minister Doug Tucker prayed for a variety of pets, including dogs, another tortoise and a pair of geckos.

Several of those pets are in Jennifer Nessa’s household.

“We do it every year,” she said. “It’s his thing,” indicating her son, Taplin.

At St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, Fr. Keith Kenney read from a book of blessings, before a gathering the “families” of numerous pet owners, including two dozen dogs and a ferret.

“The animals of God’s creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea,” Kenney read. “They share in the fortunes of human existence and have part in human life. God, who confers his gifts on all living things, has often used the service of animals or made them symbolic reminders of the gifts of salvation.”

Kenney said that Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals, not just because he loved them so much.

“He practiced preaching even to the animals,” Kenney said. “He was so good at it that they followed him around.”

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