A chorus of barks, meows and chirps filled the playground of St. Mary of the Assumption Elementary School in Santa Maria on Wednesday, as students, staff and their animal counterparts joined numerous Roman Catholics around the globe in the annual Blessing of the Animals ceremony.

Held on or near Oct. 4, the ceremony honors St. Francis of Assisi, a late-12th century Catholic friar and founder of the Catholic Church's Franciscan order largely remembered for his generosity and love of animals.

"We're honoring St. Francis of Assisi who was known for his love of and care for animals and the environment," said Michelle Cox, principal at St. Mary of the Assumption School. "The prayer service is part of our normal blessings; it's part of our history, tradition and ritual."

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Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.

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