FAIRMONT – Cats, dogs, a bunny, lizards and even a snake were blessed Friday at Fairmont Catholic School.

During a Blessing of the Animals ceremony, Father Joe Konikattil sprinkled the pets with Holy Water during the service in the school’s back play area.

One student, Katelyn Jochum, brought her dog Mac and Gecko lizard Lizzy to be blessed.

She said her dog loved to meet new dogs — and new people — at the service.

“It teaches them how all animals are God’s creatures, and how everyone’s important,” said her mother, Cindy Jochum.

She said they loved the service, and come back each year it’s held.

School interim principal Cynthia Garcia said the Blessing of the Animals hasn’t been held every year at the school, but it’s been held many times over the years.

“It’s a Catholic tradition on the Feast of St. Francis to bless the animals, and Oct. 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi,” she said.

“The Feast of St. Francis is traditionally a feast where we really talk about care of creation and the beauty of God’s creatures. One of the real movements now in the Catholic Church is toward creation care. The Pope wrote an encyclical several years ago about it, and it’s really called us to just take care of the environment and be more aware of the things around us, particularly be aware of how things like climate change affect the poor.”

“We’re trying to really be good stewards of creation. That’s really what this feast is about, and we’re acknowledging the gift of these animals and what a gift they are to us, and we’re blessing them.”

 The “Canticle of the Creatures” by St. Francis of Assisi was read during the service, as well as a Reading from the Book of Genesis and a reading from a Sermon of St Francis.

The sermon reads, “Peace, birds, peace! My brother and sister birds, you should greatly praise your Creator and love him always. He gave you feathers to wear, and wings to fly, and whatever you need. God made you noble among his creatures and gave you a home in the purity of the air, so that, though you do not sow nor reap, he nevertheless protects and governs you without your least care.”

According to Garcia, 20 to 30 adults brought animals to be blessed. She said there were also a lot of children who brought their pets.

“We had a snake, we had a bearded lizard,” she said, noting some of the more unusual pets. “Some kids brought their animals in this morning, and they just stayed with them in the classroom during the day.”

She said the service went well.

“Our students love animals, and they really love their pets, and this is a way for them to share their pets with each other and sort of bring their pets into school so that their pets can kind of be part of that school family,” she said. “A lot of the pets that are here are pets that we routinely see when the kids get dropped off or picked up, they’re in the cars, so they kind of are part of the school community, and this is a way for them all to come together and be blessed.”

Sara Tetrick of Fairmont, who brought her dog, Jack, was happy to have her pet blessed.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I wish I could have brought the rest of my animals, but they’re just too much.”

She said her family also has another dog and a cat.

Tetrick thought her dog did OK during the blessing.

“It’s a lot of action for him, but he loves animals and loves people, so this was great,” she said. “Fairmont Catholic is a wonderful school, they do lots of wonderful things for the children, animals, community.”

Mike McHugh of Fairmont brought his Shih Tzu, Geno, to get a blessing. His granddaughter, Dominica, is a student at the school.

“He needed it, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “He’s a great dog, though. He’s just a puppy, but he’s learning every day. It’s a great ceremony. I really, really appreciate it, having all the students here.”

Eric Hrin can be reached at 304-367-2549, or ehrin@timeswv.com.

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