An assortment of animals, including dogs, a black-and-white rabbit and two Cockatoos, came out with their human companions on a warm Saturday afternoon for a blessing at Holy Family Grade School.
Fr. Jim Bevacqua, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, said he decided to hold the event around the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals.
The feast day was Oct. 4, but because it was a school and business day, Bevacqua said the weekend was a better fit.
“Animals are important. They are a big part of the lives of many,” Bevacqua said. “They help a lot of people and set an example for us humans on how to behave in terms of loyalty and not having an attitude. A lot of animals demonstrate unconditional love.”
Just before 2 p.m., parishioners and school families began walking in to the school parking lot with their pets, mostly dogs, taking a seat under the arbor and chatting about their pets before the ceremony started.
“I just wanted her blessed so she'll behave better,” Linda Policarpio, a 15-year parishioner, said about her 5-year-old Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, Nikki.
For Araceli Espindola, it was about tradition.
“According to Catholic tradition, it's good for your family to have the blessing of God,” the eight-year parishioner said in Spanish. “And pets are part of the family.”
Espindola and her family brought their two Cockatoos and a Yorkie. She added that it was their second time attending the blessing.
Christine Umali said she received a memo about the blessing from Holy Family Grade School, where her son is a student.
“We're baptized, and I think this is the same for him,” she said, referring to Rico, the family's 5-month-old Maltese-poodle mix.
Juan Lima, who attends Holy Family Catholic Church, brought his two sons and Rex, their 3-year-old lovebird.
A 12-year-old St. Bernard was in attendance as well.
“He's been a companion of the family for several years, and we wanted him to get blessed,” said Kevin Lozano, 14.
As the ceremony began, the roughly 60 people and 30 animals gathered around Fr. Mike Perucho.
Each animal received a blessing and a sprinkle of holy water, some taking it in stride while others shook their heads feverishly or sneezed.
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MARIA HSIN covers City Hall and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.