By Tony DeGol
Despite appearances, no one was filming an Aflac commercial at Sacred Heart Parish in Altoona the other day.
Rather, the Pastor, the Very Reverend Lubomir Strecok, VF, was holding his annual blessing of pets in celebration of the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron of animals.
Young Vivienne Compton brought her pal, Lenny – one of three ducks she raises along with chickens.
Lenny was a hit with the crowd when Vivienne released the duck from her travel container and let her roam around the courtyard.
Lenny’s strut and quacks drew plenty of aahs and chuckles on the beautiful October morning.
“She had a bath this morning, so she’s very happy,” reported Vivienne, a Sacred Heart parishioner. “They’re like friends to me. I raise the chickens by hand along with the ducks. I’ll hold them and give them water every morning. They have a little kiddie pool in the back yard so they can splash around. They love water.”
Besides the fun and companionship, there is another benefit to Vivienne’s feathered friends.
“They give us eggs,” she noted.
As great as those eggs are, for Vivienne and the others who gathered with their pets, the focus was on the unconditional love animals bring their owners.
“He is a very close part of our family,” said Tara Wood of her Mini Goldendoodle, Benny. “All four kids love him as their brother, and we’re just happy to bring him here to get a pet blessing.
Wood, a member of Sacred Heart, has a particular devotion to Saint Francis, so the blessing was especially significant.
“I just think emotionally, animals are very supportive, especially in these hard times of being home every day because of COVID,” she said. “I just want to treat him like we would the kids. There’s Baptisms and Confirmations, so for Benny it’s a pet blessing.”
It was love at first sight when Debbie Summers met her dog, Gracie.
It was after Summers’ husband passed, and Gracie was just the ticket to help ease some of the loneliness.
“I saw her, and I fell in love with her,” insisted Summers, also of Sacred Heart. “She just means everything to me.”
Even Elvis was in the house – Elvis and Ginger, that is. The Pugs belong to Bob Kutz of Saint Mary Parish in Altoona.
“They’re family all the way,” Kutz assured. “These two are very important to me.”
After reading the blessing, Father Strecok toured the courtyard and blessed each animal with Holy Water.
Sacred Heart was among various parishes throughout the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown to offer pet blessings around the Feast of Saint Francis.
Editor’s Note: For more on the pet blessing at Sacred Heart Parish, watch Proclaim! TV on October 11 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
[Photos: (Top) Tara Wood, her daughters, and their Mini Goldendoodle, Benny. (First Inset) Vivienne Compton and her pet duck, Lenny. (Second Inset) Debbie Summers with her dog, Gracie.]