ELMHURST – Unusual visitors sat in between the pews of Elmhurst’s Church of Our Saviour last weekend.
Furry ears and dark eyes peeked over the back of the seats waiting for minister Mary Anne O’Rourke to invite each animal up to the front of the church to receive their blessing.
“It’s tied to the Feast of St. Francis,” said Rev. Stephen Martz of the church’s annual pet blessing.
Martz explained pet blessings have become more popular recently and are usually offered around Oct. 4 which is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, who is considered the patron saint of animals.
The event celebrates all creatures and is open to everyone, but Martz said the blessing is also a way to reach out to children. Because the church wants all children to feel welcome, even those without pets had the opportunity to participate.
“We’ve always encouraged them to bring stuffed animals as well,” Martz said.
Following a short service, pet-owners presented their animals one by one to receive a blessing and sprinkle of holy water – an experience not all animals welcome.
Four-legged family members were welcome, but the church blessed more than just cats and dogs. Pet owners were encouraged to bring fish, birds, reptiles and any creature they consider their pet.
“I’m good with snakes, but not everyone is,” Martz said.
Martz has been at Elmhurst’s Church of Our Saviour for two years, but remembers a past pet blessing at another church when a woman brought a litter of wild cats she was raising.
Not only were all pets welcome, but all people. The annual pet blessing welcomed both members of the church and nonmembers.
“We’re celebrating all of creation, why would we limit it to one denomination?” Martz said.