Horse, chickens, dogs receive blessings at Fort Bragg
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A horse, chickens and pooches gathered Oct. 4 outside of Pope Chapel on Fort Bragg to receive blessings.
Hosted by the Saint Michael of the Archangel Catholic Community of Fort Bragg, the annual blessing of the pets commemorates St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology, organizers said.
Leading his 13-year-old white horse, Cody, to be sprinkled with holy water was Maj. Jeff Masengale, a Protestant chaplain at Fort Bragg.
“I thought blessing of the pets is a good community outreach and opportunity for pet owners to gather, and I figured there’s no horses probably, and the article said large pets,” Masengale said.
While he hoped Cody’s blessing was to lose weight, he hoped his 2-year-old Australian cattle dog, Roper, would be blessed to be more disciplined and listen better.
Although they’re technically not pets, Paula Hopel brought her Silkie chicken and black hen.
“I’ve never brought my chickens, because my chickens don’t have names. They’re our work animals, but I will bring my chickens again,” Hopel said. “This is really fun.”
Jeanette Webster has brought her rescue dog, Molly, to past blessings.
Molly, who became her pet when her grandson deployed more than six years ago, is a blessing in herself, because Webster said she is a widow.
“She loves people, animals, everybody,” Webster said. “This is just really nice. I look forward to it, and she does, too, so she can socialize.”
The blessing of the pets has been a tradition at Fort Bragg for more than 30 years, said Susan Kroll, Catholic community care coordinator.
“A lot of people who have pets, they’re very important to them. They’re considered a part of their family, so it’s another reason to get together and to pray together and have some fellowship time, too,” Kroll said.
The Rev. Michael Travaglione, a Franciscan priest, led Thursday’s blessing.
Travaglione said it commemorates the legend of St. Francis.
“He loved all animals and all creatures, because he just loved creation because God created all things,” Travaglione said.
Both Kroll and Travaglione said the annual blessing is not exclusive to Catholics or even just pets.
Kroll said Travaglione allowed children to bring stuffed animals a few years ago, realizing not all families can have pets.
“The child gets to come here and see all the other animals,” she said.
Xandria Henry brought her four children – Madison, Michael, Kolby and Benjamin, ages 3 to 8 – to Thursday’s blessing for the first time, along with their 6-month-old dog Mia.
“I think it’s a good idea. We’re excited to come back next year,” Henry said.