Conway church hosts blessing of the animals
Blessing ceremonies are held on or near the Oct. 4 feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the Italian Roman Catholic friar and preacher who was known for his love of animals, and became their patron saint.
A cold wind was blowing, but the sky was nearly a cloudless blue, with Mount Washington to the north graced with its early lacing of snow.
Rev. Harry E. Wellsman, church deacon, led the service, his white robe at times billowing in the cool breeze. The four-legged creatures, seven dogs and two cats, attending were respectfully quiet during the liturgy.
'Don't we all have the responsibility for our animals, our pets?' Wellsman asked, noting how we need them as much as they need us. He recounted how he and his wife, Sally, had become owners of a pit bull. He said, she had been a street dog, first given a true home by their daughter, then had come to live with them.
Despite the reputation of her breed, he said, 'She is the most gentle, sweetest animal that God ever put on Earth.' She is now, he said, taken care of and loved, and so now gives that love back.
Another dog quietly waiting to be blessed was Josie, a beagle. A former shelter dog, one of Josie's eyes is fused shut, but that didn't prevent her from looking up with love at her adopted parent, Heather English of Bartlett. English said that when she was looking for a dog at Harvest Hills animal shelter in Bridgeton, Maine, 'She was the only one who wasn't barking.'
After each pet was blessed by Wellsman, Kathy Kropac of Intervale, said that her black lab, Webster, recently had a cancerous growth removed from his leg.
He's 11 years old, and Kropac said they don't want to put him through the stress of chemotherapy treatments, but he will be getting some high-potency drugs. With the medicine and the blessing, Kropac said they are hoping for the best.
As a White Mountains native, Webster has hiked some of the region's family-friendly trails, as well as the more challenging trails up Webster and Jackson.
'He's got to get back to hiking,' Kropac said, looking down at her friend affectionately.
Wellsman said it's the first blessing of the animals at the church in over a decade, and that, 'This is what the churches do.'
'Down the road it will get bigger,' he said, as the word gets out. The blessing is open to everyone, regardless of faith.