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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Blessing of the Pets ceremony brings South Bend together

A parade of basset hounds and Yorkshire terriers, some dressed in denim clothing sewn with embroidered strawberries and pineapples, marched along South Quad Sunday afternoon, headed to a “Blessing of the Pets” at the Cedar Grove Cemetery.

Fr. John Santone, a professor of theology and the priest-in-residence in Flaherty Hall, was responsible for proffering the blessings.

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Fr. John Santone bestowed blessings on pets Sunday afternoon.


A blessing is invoking God and seeking his kindness, favor and goodness,” Santone said. “We do this when blessing the pets. We ask God to look kindly on the animals that he created and who are a significant part of our lives.”

The event is a part of the Notre Dame Office of Sustainability’s observance of St. Francis of Assisi week.

St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of ecology, and his feast day on Oct. 4 is meant to encourage action on climate change and other green behaviors. The week is also a time to promote the health and safety of all living things, including pets.

The entourage of furry friends trickled in a few minutes before the event began. Locals from the South Bend-Mishawaka area and Notre Dame seniors living in off-campus housing were the two most prominent groups in attendance.

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Pet owners lined up outside of the Mausoleum Complex, which features a statue of St. Francis Assisi himself, to be blessed with holy water.

Beth Kuhl, a friend of the event organizers, was one such owner. The South Bend native was there with two terriers, who were sitting in a baby stroller. 

“We have the two pets, and who can’t use an extra blessing or two?” Kuhl said.

Kuhl also helped to distribute pink power pins for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The event’s organizer, Amy Huber, is a survivor of breast cancer. 

“[Amy] would do anything to help support the cause,” Kuhl said. She went on to clarify that the event was not originally intended to bring awareness to breast cancer, but with the overlapping times, Huber believed it would be a great idea.

Another attendee was M.K. McGuirk, a senior from Pasquerilla East Hall who had come to take pictures of the ceremony.

“Blessing of the Pets sounded really fun, and they are all really cute so I couldn’t say no,” McGuirk said. 

McGuirk said the cutest animal she photographed was “the chocolate lab with the frosted, powdered sugar face.”

Santone also weighed in on his favorite furry friend.

“I have a black English Labrador, Watson, and I bless him every day,” Santone said.

He also commented on some of the more unusual pets that he had blessed in his two years with the event. These included rats, iguanas and snakes, which Santone admitted he did not care for.

Students, alumni, parents and grandparents alike credited the event for improving their emotional well-being.

“I definitely feel better. It’s kind of a cloudy day, but it’s nice that it’s filled with such cute animals,” McGuirk said.

Santone said that the people who gather for the blessing are aware of the “special role” of their animals in their lives.

“Stories are shared, visits are made to the animals, people catch up and everyone walks away happy knowing that God has bestowed his blessing upon their companions who bring them happiness, love and peace each day,” Santone said.