By Anne Marie Amacher
During an outdoor Mass Sept. 29 at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove several dogs barked, a calf mooed, guinea pigs stared quietly and bees buzzed in their enclosed hive. The animals and insects were present for the annual pet blessing, celebrated close to the Oct. 4 feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.
Msgr. Drake Shafer, pastor of St. Ann Parish, said he celebrates the feast day on the weekend to coincide with faith formation classes. “We’ve had lots of dogs, a few cats, horse, calf, goat and poultry — all sorts over the years.”
The priest recalled during his homily that when he served at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport as a deacon about 40 years ago pets were blessed in December. “We invited all the students to bring a stuffed animal to church.” The students lined the communion rail full of stuffed animals to be blessed.
Four years ago, Msgr. Shafer decided to get a pet of his own, a dog. “I went for one and got two. I’m not sure how that happened.” Lucy and Thomas “became a part of my life and a real blessing.”
He told of how Thomas thinks he is a squirrel at times and Lucy thinks she’s the owner over the priest. “Both give me affection and have a love for nature and the outdoors.” He noted that St. Francis loved all creatures, whether they had two, four, eight legs or more.
Another blessing, Msgr. Shafer said, was to be assigned to St. Ann’s Parish and the fact that he is “surrounded by fields and can watch the seasons pass.”
He invited parishioners to come forward after Mass to see a beehive that a parishioner had brought in. The pastor assured everyone they would not get stung by the hundreds of bees in the enclosed beehive. He spoke of the wonders of nature and how important bees are to our lives as they pollinate flowers and other plants. “Don’t tell the dogs — but bees are more important. If it were not for the bees, there would not be much for us to eat.”
Msgr. Shafer reminded parishioners to be good stewards of the earth in any way they can.
Pet blessings were being celebrated elsewhere in the diocese this week. Jeanne VonFeldt, principal of All Saints Catholic School in Davenport, said the school has had a pet blessing on or near the feast day for at least 10 years. Families are invited to bring their pets to a blessing each Oct. 4 at the end of the school day. Students without a pet or who are unable to bring their pet to school are encouraged to bring a stuffed animal. “We get quite a menagerie of animals,” VonFeldt said.
Priests from Holy Family, Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Alphonsus parishes are invited on a rotating basis to give the blessing. Father Bob Harness, pastor at Holy Family, will give today’s blessing.