La PORTE — Pets of all shapes, sizes and breeds were welcomed to the Catholic Youth Ministry’s Blessing of the Animals on Oct. 4 at Sacred Heart Church in La Porte. 

While any animals were welcome to be blessed, the turnout brought 20 to 25 dogs and one cat.

Deacon Frank Zolvinski said this was his second year blessing the animals, but Sacred Heart Church has been annually blessing the animals for the past 20 years. 

According to Zolvinski, the blessing is to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. This saint was known for his love of nature, especially animals – calling them his brothers and sisters.

“Seeing people and their love for their pets and the relationship with their animals is what I do this for,” Zolvinski said. “Raising awareness for God’s creatures, in honor of St. Francis, is why we do this event.”

The event started with a prayer: “May God, who created the animals of this earth as a help to us, continue to protect and sustain us with the grace his blessings bring now and forever.”

As Zolvinski held a bowl of holy water, he dipped a whisk in the water then shook it above each animal’s head. He went around until all pets had been blessed.

Theresa Duttlinger, a parishioner from La Porte, brought her Toy Poodle, Pepper.

“I came here to honor St. Francis, and to have my pet blessed,” she said.

This was Duttlinger’s 14th blessing of the animals.

Tori Perez, the Youth Minister at Sacred Heart, said this was her first blessing of the animals.

“I’m here to see the love between everyone and their pets, and to celebrate St. Francis’ life,” she said.

Perez, who comes from Valparaiso, has been with Sacred Heart as a Youth Minister for a little over a month. A recent IU graduate of human biology, she plans to remain a Youth Minister here for some time, before eventually going back to college as a graduate student at the University of Texas.

Next Perez and Zolvinski will be getting ready for All Saint’s Day, a blood drive and to discuss the church’s position on Halloween. 

With all pets blessed (including a pet in a picture frame who could not make it due to illness), pet owners gave their animals treats. As they left, they donated canned goods for the local pantry.

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