Blessing of animals great and small

Children with water dragon at the Blessing of the Animals
Children admire the Water Dragon belonging to one of the kindergarten pupils at St Francis of Assisi Primary School, Paddington. PHOTO: Alphonus Fok

Parish priest at St Francis of Assisi Paddington Father Paul Ghanem ofm says he has witnessed “very intense” bonds between pets and their owners at an annual blessing of animals which reveals God’s love for all of creation.

Each October the parish, which is in the care of the Franciscan Friars (Order of Friars Minor), extends a blessing of animals for anyone, including non-Catholics, in honour of the saint’s October 4 feast day.

This year the event was held on 20 October, bringing people from all over Sydney and as far as Canberra and Penrith for the blessings held after the school holidays.

Fr Paul Ghanem ofm (pictured) said pet owners were also invited to pray in the church. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Regular attendees, the Mounted Police and their special steeds, were on duty this year at the Invictus Games but there was still a 25-metre long queue for the friars who blessed not only a menagerie of dogs, cats, turtles, one water dragon lizard, a goldfish and even some toy animals, but their owners as well.

Children bringing their stuffed toy animals received a special blessing that they would always sleep peacefully and feel their parents’ love, Fr Paul said.

A petting zoo was set up on the day along with a number of stalls selling wares including homemade cakes made by the school mums, and a BBQ run by dads, all raising $900 for drought relief.

Mums cake stall at St Francis of Assisi Paddington
Families from St Francis of Assisi Primary School pitched in to raise funds for drought-relief. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“This event is about the message of St Francis of Assisi that Christ is present in the whole world and we encounter Christ throughout all of creation,” Fr Paul said.

“It’s a very simple, strongly Catholic message based upon the Genesis story.

“It shows another side of the Catholic Church that people don’t often get to see, and to show that we are here ready to serve everyone and are accessible to everyone.”

There were also a number of stalls to raise funds for social outreaches run by a number of Catholic or Church-affiliated organisations.

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