Pet blessing brings unique spiritual experience to campus


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

The event was an opportunity for pets to receive blessings in a special service.

Davis Giangiulio, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern students and Evanston residents gathered in Alice Millar Chapel on Sunday morning for an unusual service.

It began similarly to a mass, with a choir singing hymns and lectors reading scripture, but unlike typical services, dogs also filled the chapel with barks as they found seats in the pews and aisles typically reserved for their owners.

“We are blessed to care for one another, for creatures,” the Rev. Kristen Glass Perez said during the meditation sermon.

The mass, an annual pet blessing organized by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, supported the Evanston Animal Shelter this year. Representatives of the group attended the event and offered information on how to foster pets and aid the shelter.

Eric Budzynski, associate director for religious life and chapel music, said pet blessings are a common event at many churches this time of year to celebrate St. Francis of Assisi. Both his death and a holiday commemorating his life are in early October.

“He had this special relationship with animals,” Budzynski said. “He saw nature as this mirror of God, so in that celebration of him in early October, a lot of churches now have had a special day for the church to honor animals.”

A group blessing for attending animals took place toward the end of the mass in a call and response format between Perez and the attendees. After, owners could bring their pets forward for individual blessings.

Evanston resident Gloria Meldman brought her Maltese-mixed dog Tillie to be blessed.

“I always go to church. So when I heard there was a blessing, I wanted to come here,” Meldman said.

Meldman said the event wasn’t her first pet blessing, but she was especially interested in the animal shelter’s involvement. She said she was hoping to find ways to become more involved with the group.

Weinberg junior JoJo Holm, founder of All Paws In, a group that connects students with the animal shelter, said she hoped the event would yield responses like Meldman’s.

“All we can do is encourage other students to go and encourage people to donate to the shelter,” Holm said. “As a club, we’re really focused on doing good for the animal shelter.”

Holm said the group was also working to ensure the event could be stress-free for the animals, like by planning breaks for the animals and paying attention to their body language, something she said often gets overlooked.

Budzynski said the event would be successful if it promoted both All Paws In and the animal shelter. He also said he hoped the event could have a spiritual effect on attendees regardless of their religious affiliation.

“It’s a little bit of a novel or a fun way, especially for people that may not be looking to go to a worship kind of experience regularly, just as a way for them to engage,” Budzynski said. “To see religion outside of the box.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @GiangiulioDavis

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