Priests and 'Urban Shaman' to Welcome Animals for St. Francis Blessing

By Leslie Albrecht on September 30, 2013 7:05am 

Slideshow
 From Catholic priests to an "urban shaman," a neighborhood guide to animal blessings.
Churches and 'Urban Shaman' to Welcome Animals for St. Francis Blessing
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PARK SLOPE — Forget flea dips and claw clipping — how about a little spiritual grooming for your pet?

Churches — and at least one "urban shaman" — will bless animals this weekend to mark the annual feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic saint known as a lover and protector of all critters.

Here's where you can take your pet to get good with God in the Park Slope area.

Church of St. Saviour, 611 Eighth Ave. at Sixth Street

Father Danny Murphy will welcome animals into St. Saviour's courtyard at 10 a.m. on Oct. 5, where he'll sprinkle them with holy water and hand out St. Francis prayer cards. This year the church will also have some pet collars with prayer charms to distribute.

The menagerie at St. Saviour sometimes includes reptiles and other unusual pets.

"It's basically cats and dogs but we never know what may be brought in," said Geri Anne O'Beirne, the church's coordinator of youth and family ministry. "We've had everything from a salamander all the way up to a great dane. We've had fish."

The tradition is popular with both St. Saviour parishioners and neighbors who aren't church members, especially children, O'Beirne said.

"It's just something that gives the owners a little bit of comfort, knowing that God is blessing their extra family member," O'Beirne said. "It’s not a talisman, it’s not going to protect the animal from getting sick or an accident, but it’s a comfort."

FIDO, Prospect Park

The dog owners group FIDO (Fellowship in the Interest of Dogs and their Owners) hosts a get-together on the first Saturday of the month in Prospect Park called Coffee Bark, where dogs and their owners mingle, munch pastries and exchange information.

The Oct. 5 meeting will feature a blessing of the animals at 8 a.m. in the Long Meadow below the Picnic House and, according to the group's website, "sinners" are welcome. FIDO organizers could not be reached immediately for comment about who will be running the blessing. In the past, clergy from local churches have done the honors.

"Urban Shaman" Mama Donna Henes, Grand Army Plaza

A self-described "urban shaman" who specializes in leading rituals marking important life events such as weddings, the vernal equinox and baby namings, Mama Donna Henes will host her first-ever animal blessing at the fountain in Grand Army Plaza on Oct. 5 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Henes was inspired to perform an animal blessing after recently breaking her wrist while on vacation in Maine. The hospital's emergency room let her hold her dog on her lap while she was treated, and the experience reminded her of the important role pets play in our lives.

Henes' dog, Poppy, a shih tzu papillon mix, is never far from her side. Henes said Poppy has a comforting personality that helps when she does spiritual counseling for clients. "She's a total healer priestess," Henes said.

Henes will bring "blessing oils" and a collection of healing waters from global holy sites including the Ganges River and Lourdes, to Saturday's ceremony.

All creatures, great and small, are welcome. "They can come on leashes or in bowls or in cages," Henes said. "It’s for all of our furry or scaled friends. I would do the bees gladly if one would show up."

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