Pet ritual hosted by churches in Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills
By Steve Lee
LAND O’ LAKES — Father Jojo Tejada waited patiently for the Glaister sisters to still their collie for the Blessing of the Animals, an annual tradition at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Land O’ Lakes.
Other pet owners followed, lining up with their dogs, turtles and hamsters. Those pets, along with ducks in Zephyrhills and sheep in Wesley Chapel, were blessed in commemoration with the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis, a figure with appeal across religious and secular lines, is the Patron of Ecology. His deep love of all creation and sense of connectedness to all living things is reflected in the blessing ritual.
Atonement Lutheran Church of Wesley Chapel blessed the animals for a second straight year, only this time it took place outside rather than indoors like last year.
“Kids came with their dogs,” church member Frank Reams said. “I was a little bit concerned that one of them might have an accident, so this year we (blessed animals) out front.”
In Zephyrhills, people brought their animals to St. Joseph Catholic Church. The blessing there was followed by pet photos, pet treats and numerous prizes. Donations benefited the church’s music Ministry.
Reams echoed a sentiment shared by all who blessed the animals or brought their pets to a church to be blessed.
“It’s for the love of God,” he said. “It’s not only for humans, it’s for the animals too.”