Mount Mary pet blessings unite community: 'Celebrate life'

Some religious families' furry friends received blessings at Mount Mary University on Tuesday, Oct. 4.

The university said it was more than just a pet blessing – it also offered a strong sense of community. Some dogs were a bit reluctant, while others were a tad more welcoming to Father Larry Chapman's blessing.

"We are gathered here today to bless the animals that are in our midst and those who are very close to us as our companions," said Chapman.

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Bailey, an 11-year-old shih tzu-bichon, brought his owners to the religious event.

"He has a little arthritis problems, but the vet gave him some medication which has helped tremendously," said Donna Zandt, Bailey's owner.

Bailey and his owners attend pet blessing at Mount Mary University

Lavender, a Maltese, made sure to be first in line for Chapman's blessing.

"Any chance she gets, or we get, to celebrate life and creation is a blessing, so we decided we would not let this one go," said Laura Harvancik, director of ministry with the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The pet blessing was also in honor of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals.

"He has that sense of awareness and blessedness for all of creation," Chapman said.

Pet blessing at Mount Mary University

Tuesday was the first time Mount Mary offered a pet blessing. The university said it hopes to make it an annual event.

"The message that we’re trying to give through the blessing itself is really one that really does unite us as a community," said Andrea Stapleton, Mount Mary Mission and Justice vice president.

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"One person said this was the quietest pet blessing, and I agree, too, because normally they get kind of all agitated and excited," Chapman said.

Chapman assured his patrons that all dogs and cats really do go to heaven: "You can take a drink. It's OK."

The blessing wasn't just for dogs; there was at least one cat in the crowd.