Diocesan News

Boerum Hill Pets Receive ‘Fur’-vent Blessing

by Marie Elena Giossi


Wearing a blue rain slicker, 10-year-old Blaze, an Australian Cattle Collie, was the first to arrive for a noontide animal blessing on the feast of St. Francis at St. Paul’s Church in Boerum Hill.

“He likes the rain,” said Helen, who adopted him from a shelter nine years ago. As she has lost her hearing through the years, Blaze has become her right hand – alerting her to sounds that she can’t hear anymore.

Helen and her daughter Pasqualina came out in the rain to make sure Blaze received his blessing. “He’s part of the family,” Pasqualina said. “He takes good care of mom so he deserves it (the blessing).”

When the dog walked from the rainy sidewalk into the church’s warm gathering space, he was greeted by Sister M. Inocentia Lipari, M.S.B.T., pastoral associate, who patted his head and told him what a good dog he is.

Nearly two-dozen pets and their human companions attended the blessing ceremony led by Msgr. Joseph Nugent, pastor, who was assisted by Deacon Leroy Branch.

This was the first blessing at St. Paul’s for Msgr. Nugent, who arrived at the parish three months ago. Pasqualina noted that he is already well liked and well known for remembering people by name.

Msgr. Nugent opened the ceremony with Psalm 104 and a verse from the Hymn of St. Francis.

Maria Maldonato and son Daniel Serrano held their Chihuahuas, Lola and Elvis, and the canine couple’s 3-week-old babies, Bear and Goldy.

“They (dogs) are an integral part of our family,” shared Serrano. “The loyalty and love they show to us, it’s something like our loyalty and love for God.”

“Almighty God,” Msgr. Nugent prayed, “for these pets who give us joy, we thank you and praise you. … Make us faithful as we care for our pets.”

Deacon Branch read the story of creation from the Book of Genesis, and then Msgr. Nugent sprinkled holy water on the creatures standing and sitting before him. Blaze stood upright; the Chihuahuas nuzzled into their owners’ arms; and two little girls held up their stuffed animals.

“It’s the feast of St. Francis, and there are so many pets and pet owners in the neighborhood. I wanted to give them a welcome here,” the monsignor said following the ceremony.

“We want people to know this is an ecologically correct church that cares for all of God’s creatures, not just the two-legged ones.”

Pet owners mingled after the service, and some who toted pets in carrying cases even stopped into church for a while.

“This is a beautiful thing to bring people back to the church,” shared Deacon Branch.

Another way the parish seeks to bring people back – or invite them for the first time – is by keeping the church doors open so passersby may visit and encounter Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Deacon Branch said that since Msgr. Nugent arrived, the church and the chapel have been open daily.

“This is extending yourself to all people at all times,” said Sister Inocentia, who was happy to see many neighbors turn out despite the rain.

Even more so, she was pleased that Msgr. Nugent continued the animal blessing tradition at the church.

For latecomers who missed the official ceremony, Sister Inocentia bestowed her own blessing on several animals with a little holy water and a gentle caress on their cheeks.

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