The annual Blessing of the Animals has a new home this year in order to give more people a chance to participate and allow of a wider range of four-legged friends to attend.

Sponsored by St. Matthews Episcopal Church, the service will be held at 10 a.m. on Oct. 19 at the Benton Dog Park located at Sunset Lake.

“We are doing it a little different this year,” said board member Lee Storey, “The dog trainer thought it might be a way to bring in more people by going out into the community a little bit and offering our services away from church.”

The annual event has been going on for over 16 years and has attracted a wide range of furry and not so furry friends such as dogs, cats, horses, lizards and more. According to Storey, any animal that can be put on a lead and be controlled is welcome.

“I think people should come out to enjoy the blessing,” Storey said. “To me, it’s a neat thing to offer a blessing of the animals. It’s something don’t I see anywhere else.”

The Blessing of the Animals is part of the celebration of St. Francis Day. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and is also known for preaching to animals during his lifetime.

The event will kick off with an agility training demonstration with dog agility trainer and church member Anita Sacrey.

The blessing will be led by the Rev. Jay Bruno who is the interim priest at St. Matthews in the wake of the retirement of the Rev. Lorrie Slaymaker. Slaymaker was instrumental in the animal blessing services held by the church in the past. Deacon Nancy Cook will also be blessing the animals.

“Lorrie just loved animal training and Anita is a professional dog trainer,” Storey said. “They really bonded and did great things around (Saline County). They went to schools and other places.”

Each animal will receive a certificate of blessing signed by the clergy who blessed them. The blessing is open to the public

“We are a very small (church), but everybody loves animals and for us, it’s an evangelism thing,” Storey said. “It’s something that we can put out into the community. Even if you don’t have an animal, come out and watch the blessing. It’s heart warming. It’s special.”

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