A 7 p.m. service at St. Francis Church in Hoboken began about 15 minutes late, as it took the pet owners some time to get their animals to settle down in the pews. By the time the mass began, there were no seats available and a few owners were forced to stand in the back of the church with their dogs, cats and even goldfish and turtles.
St. Francis, located on Third and Jefferson streets in Hoboken, was holding its annual “Blessing of the Animals” service Wednesday, Oct. 4. There were all kinds of pets from all parts of the county, including two turtles from West New York.
Father Michael Guglielmelli began the Italian and English animal blessing service with the announcement, “Can we please be quiet. The people are louder than the animals. Leave the animals alone. They’re good in church, and they have a good sense of God. But if your dog gets too wild, go to the vestibule.”
After the call to worship, the congregation sang and a few dogs howled along to the opening hymn.
Guglielmelli then preached about St. Francis and his love for all of God’s creatures, including animals.
One dog in the back of the church grew particularly restless and kept barking and squirming. A man standing in front of the dog turned to the owner and said, “My son is the same way in church; don’t worry about it.”
But the highlight of the sermon came when a white poodle broke free from its leash, and the dog’s owner chased it up and down the church’s center aisle.
After the message was delivered and an almost silent prayer was complete, owners rushed to form a line in the center aisle to have their animals blessed and sprinkled with holy water by Father Guglielmelli.
Come all ye furry faithful
Pet owners came from all over the county for the event, but they all had different reasons for attending the mass. “I came last year, so I figured I would come this year,” said Patricia Telese of Jersey City, with two miniature Schnauzers. “It’s a way to bring the animals closer to God.”
Jersey City resident Alina Vilter said she brought her terrier Max, because it’s a sure way for him to live for eternity.
“I wanted him to be blessed, because he’s one of God’s creatures,” said Vilter. “I want him to go to heaven.” Jennifer Wirth of Hoboken brought her 4-month-old Jack Russell Laci after her senior citizen neighbors suggested she should go.
“It’s my first puppy, so a little spiritual help couldn’t hurt,” said Wirth. “It’s like her christening.”
Desmond Boyle of West New York brought his 6-year-old American Bulldog Brando to the mass, because he’s a St. Francis regular.
“What’s good for me is good for my dog,” said Boyle. “God brings a lot of love into my life, and so does my dog.”
Retired Hoboken police officer Vincent Lombardo said he brought his German Shepherd Olga because she is a blessing.
“She’s very good, and she keeps my wife company,” said Lombardo. “After my wife got sick, after her stroke, Olga’s been a good companion.”
West New York resident Fred Ortiz brought his turtles Ying and Yang to the service.
“I wash and clean my turtles everyday,” said Ortiz. “This is just another form of cleansing.”