Ashley (right) and Morgan Inkrott hold Maggie and Cali for blessing by Father Josefiak - Putnam Sentinel
Ashley (right) and Morgan Inkrott hold Maggie and Cali for blessing by Father Josefiak. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn-Griffis)

OTTAWA — The parking lot at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Ottawa, was something of a zoo last Friday. Dogs panted, cats purred, at least one goat gamboled, and a young steer stood more or less placidly on the fringes of a crowd of 100 or more. And there were others: a rooster, a piglet, and a hermit crab or three, not to mention dozens of animals of a less organic nature; wee stuffed beasts derived of synthetic fibers and plastic eyes. And all were there for blessing.

Pet Blessing is an annual event which, according to Father Matt Josefiak, is “about celebrating the goodness of animals in our lives.”

“I personally believe animals are in the mystery of eternity,” Father Josefiak said. “To me it would make sense. Everything God created is good and it’s all part of His kingdom. But we don’t, of course, teach that an animal has the same destiny as a human being with an immortal soul. They have a spirit.”

With that in mind, all are invited to bring the animals in their lives — pets and livestock — for blessing. And they come, as they did this year, in droves. Easily over 100 animals were present in the church’s parking lot, along with members of their extended families. There, Father Josefiak and Deacon Jim Rump eased their way through the throng, stopping to speak briefly with those who held animals, both animate and inanimate.

“We ask the kids every year, what’s your animal’s name and we bless them in name,” Father Josefiak explained. “It’s kind of neat that way, makes it a little more personal.”

And with the sign of the cross, a sprinkling of holy water; most of which falls on the animal, though a small bit, as often as not, gently splashes the animal’s companion.

This year offered a first for Father Josefiak.

“I don’t remember blessing a steer before,” he said. “I have blessed a cow, but I don’t remember a steer.”

While certainly about ministering to the goodness of the individual animals, Father Josefiak said there’s more to the event, the ritual.

“Everything’s always related to praising God, all creatures great and small,” he said. “We had mass with the children and their parents, grandparents and teachers right before. So we did a ritual, and I got to talk to them about the gift of animals. So it wasn’t like we just did this. It was giving the kids a little bit of a background. We can sometimes evangelize through these secondary means, draw people to the deeper mysteries.”

And while bringing the people to the Word and the Word to the people, there’s even more to this celebration, an important aspect that doesn’t go unremarked or unappreciated.

“The kids like it,” Father Josefiak said. “And their parents, too.”