Animal blessing honors St. Francis of Assisi
By Kitty Conley firstname.lastname@example.org October 10, 2012 9:46AM
Father Tony Janik, right, offers a prayer and blessing of children, adults, and animals at St. Anthony hospital on Thursday, October 4, 2012. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 10, 2012 9:52AM
WINFIELD — Holy Spirit Catholic Church celebrated the Blessing of the Animals on Saturday, as young and old brought their dogs for a blessing.
The Rev. Tom Mischler presided over the blessing that has become a tradition at this newest parish in the Diocese of Gary.
Mischler gathered all around the center of the memorial path in front of the church. A bust of St. Francis of Assisi on a pedestal had been brought out to remind young and old of the works and teachings of the founder of the Franciscan orders and patron saint of animals. Mischler led the gathering in prayer, reminding everyone that the animals of God’s creation inhabit the land and the sea.
Everyone joined in the response to the blessing, and Mischler walked among the dogs and their families, sprinkling each dog with holy water.
On the actual Feast Day of St. Francis, Oct. 4, blessings were given at Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point at its large statue of St. Anthony. The hospital is run by the Franciscan Sisters headquartered in Mishawaka, and the nursing home and Child Life Center are run by the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.
The Blessing of the Animals has taken place at various times around Lake County. The celebration took place at St. Matthias Catholic Church on Saturday, Sept. 29. A multidenominational celebration of the Feast of St. Francis was conducted at Solon Robinson Park Pavilion on Oct. 7.
At Holy Spirit Church, the sizes of the dogs ranged from a Chihuahua and Yorkshire terrier to two Newfoundlands and totaled more than a dozen dogs. Barb Weadon was there with her two rescue Newfoundland dogs, Sammy and Chloe, who wanted to play.
The aggressive nature of a relatively large, black pug named Tank encouraged the conversation with his companions, Raffie and Lola. The black Labrador and beagle just ignored everyone else.
Two border collie mixed dogs were there. One belonged to Mischler, and the other was accompanied by her family of Dale and Nancy Waters and their grandson, Mason.
The feast day commemorates the life of St. Francis. He is the patron saint of animals, merchants and the environment. Although this started as a Roman Catholic feast day, Anglican and Eastern churches and many Protestant churches also celebrate.
St. Francis founded the Catholic Church’s Franciscan order. He lived in Italy during the end of the 12th century and start of the 13th century. He was a minister to lepers and loved all the animals and the nature around him. He died on Oct. 4, 1226, and is often depicted surrounded by animals — big and small — that would gather around him. St. Francis was the proverbial rich bad boy who turned to a life of piety and service.