Priest ensures there’s a place for everyone – and every animal – in southern beach side suburb
If there’s one thing the Bible isn’t short on, it’s animal stories … tales such as Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the big fish, Daniel in the lion’s den and the lost sheep are legendary.
And while none of these animals were represented at Cronulla’s St Aloysius of Gonzaga Parish last weekend, more than 80 others were.
Dogs, cats, possums, rabbits and birds were among just some of those blessed at a special service held in honour of the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals.
“Poor Bunnikins has been sick for some time and when Fr James said he was holding the blessing in honour of St Francis’ Feast Day I couldn’t get there quick enough,” said Barbara.
Parish priest Fr James McCarthy said the blessing was continuing an 800-year-old tradition in a 21st century spirit of outreach.
“Animals have always been part of the message of Christ, from Noah’s Ark, to the nativity, 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,” he said.
“It’s a very simple, strongly Catholic message based upon the Genesis story and shows another side of the 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.
“Pope Francis was perhaps the first Dr Dolittle, and while he often talks about the environment he also talks about all of God’s creation and the companionship of humans and animals.
“There were more than 80 animals blessed on the day, including one of my favourites, a bulldog which is my favourite team.”
Animal lover Barbara Godlewski was among those getting just some of her animals blessed including possum Rigby, cat Bunnikins and 58-year-old cockatoo not surprisingly named Cocky. The Kurnell resident said she wanted to get her cat in particular blessed as she is battling cancer.
“Poor Bunnikins has been sick for some time and when Fr James said he was holding the blessing in honour of St Francis’ Feast Day I couldn’t get there quick enough,” she said.
“We are huge animal lovers, I couldn’t tell you how many pets I have, so thought it was a lovely idea,” she said.
“My daughter Elouise was born on 4 October and has Francesa as her middle name after Saint Francis, so it’s also a special day for us as a family.
“It was so lovely seeing everybody out and about with their pets for such a special occasion.”
Fr James said he hopes the blessing of the animals will become an annual event at the seaside parish.