WELLSVILLE-The Rev. James P. Lang may have a second calling as an animal control officer.
Lang, pastor of four area Catholic churches, presided over Wellsville's annual "Blessing of Animals" on Saturday with a demeanor that seemed to have a calming effect on all animals present.
"We're thanking God for the gift of pets and asking for his blessing on all of creation, especially animals," Lang explained.
The Rev. James P. Lang says a prayer of blessing Saturday for a group of pet owners and their pets at the Main Street gazebo in Wellsville. Lang led the annual “Blessing of Animals” service, which usually is held in October because the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology, is Oct. 4. (Photos by Stephen Huba)
The "Blessing of Animals" is held in Catholic and other churches every year on or near Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology.
With a group of pet owners and leashed dogs gathered in front of the Main Street gazebo, Lang led the blessing service by reading from Isaiah 11:1-9, offering a prayer, giving a brief sermon on the value of pets and sprinkling the animals with holy water.
"We find in our pets an indicator of the care and good will of God, and a reminder to take care of God's creation," Lang said. "We are stewards of God's creation, and they are part of creation."
Lang said pets can bring comfort to the sick, build character in children and teach humans a thing or two about how to treat others. "Pets are not as fussy as people. People can be a little more challenging," he said.
Attending the Columbiana County Fair each year, Lang said he is struck by how close the children in 4-H get to the agricultural animals that they've raised. "They bring out certain qualities in our kids," he said.
Pets also can be a blessing, especially to people in hospitals or with chronic illnesses, he said. "Pets are a living sign of hope," he said.
Among those attending Saturday's "Blessing of Animals" was Toby Petty, 45, a Wellsville native who now lives in New Cumberland. She came with her dog, a 9-year-old German shepherd-chow chow mix named Brady.
"I think animals being blessed is like people when they're being baptized," Petty said. "(Brady) needs watching out for because sometimes he wanders out to the road."
Felipa Lambo, 56, of Wellsville, brought Evans, her 4-year-old dachshund-beagle mix, so that he would be "protected from bad people and calamities. And to keep him safe in the house."
Those who attended Saturday's event received a "certificate of blessing" and a St. Francis medal with the prayer on the back, "Bless and protect my pet."
The event was sponsored by the Wellsville Animal Advocacy Group. Vice President Connie Carmichael and member Heidi Pecorelli, who also is Wellsville animal control officer, assisted.