WINSLOW — Animal lovers, many of whom consider their pets members of the family, gathered this weekend to thank God for the pets that bring them much joy.

Churches across Maine held blessing of the animals ceremonies over the weekend in celebration of St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day. In central Maine, there were several ceremonies, including at St. Michael Catholic Parish in Augusta and St. John the Baptist Church in Winslow.

St. Francis is known for his love of all animals, and how he spoke to the animals and blessed them. As the feast day approaches — Tuesday, Oct. 4, this year — many families gathered in his honor to have their pets blessed.

The Rev. Frank Murray anoints dogs during the blessing of the animals in the parking lot at St. Michael Catholic Parish in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

In Winslow, the Rev. Daniel Baillargeon, the pastor at St. John the Baptist, read from the book of Genesis and offered a short blessing for the pets, before sprinkling the gathered animals with holy water while attendees sang.

“May God, who created the animals of this earth as a help to us, continue to protect and sustain us with the grace his blessing brings, now and forever,” Father Dan said during the ceremony.

Six dogs and three cats were blessed in Winslow, accompanied by their owners. They gathered on the grass outside the church, enjoying the sun and cool fall weather, the dogs, large and small, on leashes, the cats in carriers.


Jill Bolduc was there with 8-month-old Raider, a goldendoodle — a mix of golden retriever and a poodle. Raider actually belongs to Bolduc’s son, and was a graduation gift. Her son is in Georgia, however, so Bolduc and her mother brought Raider to the pet blessing.

He has been a huge source of support for her and her mother, Bolduc said, especially after both recently lost their husbands. They live in Winslow and are members of the church, Bolduc said, and it was important to her mother to be at the blessing.

“He keeps us great company,” Bolduc said.

Dan and Kay Spofford helped organize the annual blessing and brought their 2-year-old dog, Mr. Moose, a Llewellin setter. The pair are members of the Secular Franciscan Order, a group of people who seek to follow the example of St. Francis.

The Rev. Frank Murray anoints Archie and the dog’s owners Kristie and Keith Lagasse during the blessing of the animals Sunday at St. Michael Catholic Parish in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

In some ways, St. Francis was ahead of his time, Kay Spofford said, in the way he cared for animals and the environment.

“He would be fitting right in in today’s world and leading the charge of protecting God’s kingdom,” she said.

Mr. Moose was one of the animals blessed, and the Spoffords said he could use all the help he could get after breaking his leg last year and requiring surgery, including a plate to secure his injury — not that one could tell Sunday, as Mr. Moose bounced around eagerly.

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