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Pet blessings draw fresh faces to church

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Fr Tom Stevens blesses a Mortlake pooch and its owner at a blessing of pets on 20 October. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

There was a clatter of claws and a flurry of fur at the first blessing of the pets service held at St Patrick’s parish in Sydney’s inner west suburb of Mortlake last weekend.

A box of silkworms and three rats were the most unusual pets to be brought to the Gale Street church grounds for a blessing from parish priest Father Tom Stevens.

The morning on 20 October included stalls, a sausage sizzle, craft activities and a raffle with proceeds donated to the RSPCA Living Ruff program which helps the homeless and their pets.

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Silkworms, rats, cats and dogs aplenty at the inaugural pets blessing at Mortlake. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Father Stevens said he was delighted at the turn-out for the event held in honour of the October 4 feast of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, and following an 800-year-old tradition in a 21st century spirit of outreach.

“We saw this as an opportunity for a community-building event that not only Catholics but others can understand and engage in,” said Father Stevens.

Being on a peninsula, with its natural boundaries, he says makes it somewhat easier to build community spirit in the parish, but he also is keen to keep reaching out to the wider community.
Fr Stevens said the pet blessing will become a regular fixture in the parish calendar, along with other initiatives to draw people into the life of the Church in a variety of ways. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Several other parishes host animal blessing services during October including St Columba’s Parish in Leichhardt North which also held a ‘purrrfect’ event on 20 October.

“We had a great event with people bringing their pets along to an outdoor Mass in the school grounds followed by a sausage sizzle,” parish priest Father Peter Smith explained, adding that the “best behaved pet of the day” was his own dog Calli.
On Sunday 27 October St Gertrude’s Parish in Smithfield will hold its annual outdoor Children’s Mass with Blessing of Pets at 10.30am on the grass area behind its Montefano Hall.
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