The Cathedral of Saint Andrew was packed full of people – and animals – on the morning of October 2 for St. Andrew's Schools' annual Pet Blessing Chapel. More than a dozen dogs and a handful of cats, birds, fish and even a gerbil packed the pews for this highly anticipated event, which was also the first all-school chapel of the academic year.
"We've been holding this special chapel for more than a dozen years in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals," said Chaplain Annalise Pasalo. "The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi is celebrated on October 4 so during this week, we talk about how he served all of creation, including the people and animals, and was a good steward of the Earth. In honor of him, we bless the animals in our community and talk about taking care of them."
The service got underway with Head of School Ruth Fletcher welcoming the congregation. During her remarks, a few barks could be heard from the back of the cathedral.
Upper School students then led the opening hymn and Mother Jasmine read the lesson from the Gospel of Matthew.
Next, it was time for the part of the service that everyone had been patiently awaiting. Each grade level was invited
to meet their pet at the back of the cathedral and bring them forward for a blessing. Father Moki Hino, Canon Sandy Graham and Mother Jasmine Bostock from around The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i assisted Chaplain Annalise in delivering the blessing to the pets and photos of pets that weren't physically present.
The service continued with "The Sheep Song," sung by The Priory Lower School students. Following prayer and the closing hymn, the dismissal was met by yet more barks from the furry guests.
Pasalo says that over the years, the most unusual animal she's seen attend the service was a brine fish and the biggest was a Labrador Retriever. Because students are also welcome to bring in a favorite stuffed animal in lieu of a pet, she's also blessed unicorns, Minnie Mouse and Pikachu.
"It's a really fun time to gather and because parents are invited to participate, it's truly a community event," Pasalo said. "And the kids just love their pets."