West Palm Beach, Fla. (October 22, 2009)– Gators, owls, spoonbills, sloths and New Guinea Singing Dogs were among the exotic animals from the Palm Beach Zoo who received a blessing at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach on the morning of October 21, 2009. Additionally, various household pets gathered with their owners in the afternoon for the Blessing of the Animals ceremony at the hospital.
This annual ceremony culminates hospital activities during October for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology. The celebrations highlight community service animals and features horses from the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office, the West Palm Beach K-9 dogs, and the ‘pet therapy’ dogs who volunteer at the hospital in the Sunshine-on-a-Leash program.
“Pets are companions for many people. They arrive home from work to find a furry friend overjoyed at their return,” said Father Greg Mansfield, Episcopal Chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital. “No wonder people enjoy the opportunity to treat their animal companions to a special blessing.”
According to the hospital’s Catholic priest, Fr. Aidan Lacy, the zoo and exotic animals were invited this year to highlight the diversity in God’s animal kingdom, as well as to provide a special treat to the children who are patients at the hospital.
“The special participation of the Palm Beach Zoo allowed the children who are patients here at St. Mary’s to see exotic animals first-hand that, due to their illness and hospitalization, they wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise,” said Fr. Lacy. “Since these kids can’t make it to the zoo, we’re so pleased to be able to bring the zoo to them!”
The Blessing of the Animals ceremony began with the singing of ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’ and short readings from Scripture, followed by individual prayers for each pet. “Bless my Pet” medals were also distributed.