BALIK PULAU: The compound outside the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) was filled with a different type of crowd as the parish opened its doors to pets and their owners in conjunction with the feast day of St Francis of Assisi.
The Italian Catholic friar, who lived over 800 years ago, is the patron saint of animals and the environment due to his affinity with nature.
Pet blessings are held around the world around Oct 4, the day dedicated to St Francis by the church.
But this was the first time CDM organised such an event since the church in Sungai Ara opened 12 years ago.
Shih tzus mingled with schnauzers, tabby cats sniffed indifferently at hamsters and a handful of turtles joined in the fun that couldn’t be deterred by a light rain that fell just before the ceremony began yesterday.
“This is the first time Prosper has been inside the church compound,” said parishioner Catherine Tan, 49, referring to her 20-year-old red-eared terrapin that was lazing around in a bucket of water.
Tan’s husband Jeffrey Boey, 50, was reassuring their dog, Whoopi, who was shaken from the car ride.
“The last time she was in the car was probably about 10 years ago when she got ‘snipped’ (spayed), so I don’t think she enjoys car rides,” Tan joked.
The couple said the pet blessing was a first for the whole family and that they hoped for healthier and better-behaved pets moving forward.
In his blessing on the pets, parish priest Fr Michael Raymond said animals are a wonderful part of God’s creation and called for their care and well-being.
“St Francis of Assisi called animals, wild and tame, his sisters and brothers,” he said.
Over 70 people from the parish and outside attended the pet blessing. The event saw calmer animals roaming around the vicinity and more excitable pets waiting in their owners’ cars.
All pets were sprinkled with holy water and prayed over during the blessings.