Arts & Culture

Pets Visit Chapel for Saint’s Blessing

Annabella Castillo, contributor

Last Friday, October 1st, about twenty people gathered in the chapel… along with their pets. Owners held their squirming, yipping dogs in their laps, cats in their arms and one even held a hedgehog in their hands. Students, staff members and several species of animals made up the crowd.

The goal of the ceremony was to bless all the campus animals. October 4th was St. Francis Day; He is the patron saint of animals due to his known love of them. He even reportedly preached to birds at one or more points in his life. This practice of blessing animals is becoming more common as a way to celebrate St. Francis’ life.

The ceremony itself was relatively short. Two students opened it with the song “You and I” by Laurence Cole, along with the Campus Ministry Musician, Andrea Sorum. It was followed by an opening reading from Nancy Swartz of “In Our Image: God’s First Creatures.” The reading told the story of God creating humans with the input of animals; Each animal decided a trait of theirs to gift human beings. A version of Psalm 148 was then read, celebrating the existence of a variety of animals. 

Next was the speaker of the day, Jennifer Troy and her Great Dane. She is the Executive Director of Paws for Learning, which is an organization that offers K9 support in colleges, schools and communities after tragedy. They have K9 assisted care teams and K9 assisted academic support teams. Paws for Learning improves students’ lives with the help of their friendly canines and adult volunteers. 

She spoke about the effect animals can have on our lives. They are always there to support us and only receive us with love. She shared a story of how she was personally helped by her Great Dane and how he continues to be a comforting presence every day.

After that, a prayer of blessing was said. It thanked our animals for all they’ve done for us and prayed for those who are not safe. The liturgist, Reverend Babette Chatman, called those present to come up one-by-one and have their animal – or a picture of their pet – blessed. She personally blessed each animal after learning their names.

Finally, there was a sending hymn called “Let All Things Now Living.” It was a song to give thanks to God for creating animals and humans, and our beneficial relationship with them. It was followed by a benediction and dismissal. 

I spoke to another attendee, Sydney Bollig, and her hedgehog. “It was nice for the community to come together with our animals and celebrate,” she said. Her hedgehog seemed to agree.

The program is available to watch on Augsburg Campus Ministry’s YouTube page, as every chapel session is recorded.