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Sixth grader Cassandra Maldonado’s dog Chili was among the many pets blessed Thursday at St. Mary of the Assumption School to celebrate the first day of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Brian Bullock/Staff

The students of St. Mary’s of the Assumption School proved St. Francis of Assisi isn’t the only one who loved animals Thursday when they brought their pets, living or stuffed, to be blessed as part of the celebration of the saint.

Known as the Patron Saint of Animals and the Ecology, St. Francis of Assisi was known for his love of all living things, including those with feathers, fur and scales. The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and on Thursday, Father Rolly Clarin blessed whatever animals the children managed to bring to school.

Pets from goldfish to golden retrievers were blessed during the morning ceremony.

“Last year students brought dozens of animals to school for a blessing. Some of our preschoolers even brought their stuffed animals,” said St. Mary’s Principal Michelle Cox, whose schnauzer Benny was at the ceremony.

In his blessing, Father Rolly reminded the students that the “animals of God’s creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea.” In some of the students’ lives, they’re stuffed with polyester fiber and covered with colorful layers of cotton.

“They share in the fortunes of human existence and have a part in human life,” he said.

Father Rolly told the students that the Bible is full of tales in which God has used the service of animals to teach lessons of faith and salvation.

Animals were saved from the flood by Noah. A giant fish saved Jonah. And ravens brought bread to Elijah.

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During his life in the early 13th century, St. Francis was known to abandon conversations with colleagues to preach to gatherings of birds. Father Rolly said the birds were also known to return the attention by flying to the Franciscan.

At St. Mary’s School, the pre-school’s mascot cockatiel was among the pets blessed.

“His name is Lucky,” said teacher Linda Larr. “He was found in the preschool playground so we figured he was lucky to be alive.”

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