2 churches fill South Loop park with blessings for pets

Churchgoers and pet owners gather in Printers Row Park on Sunday for Grace Place Episcopal’s annual blessing service in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

SHARE 2 churches fill South Loop park with blessings for pets
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Rev. Amity Carruba blesses Sony, a dog brought by Kim Callis on behalf of her friend, in Printers Row Park for Grace Place Episcopal’s “Blessing of the Animals” Sunday service.

Michael McDevitt/For the Sun-Times

When Grace Place Episcopal Church in the South Loop and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church shared Sunday morning service in Printers Row Park, the typical “Amens” were punctuated by barks, yelps and howls.

Members from both congregations brought their dogs and a few cats to the annual “Blessing of the Animals” service, which happens yearly around the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

This pet blessing was among at least 10 happening at Christian churches throughout Chicagoland this weekend to mark the feast day. Christians celebrated the official feast day of Saint Francis on Oct. 4, and there have been pet blessing ceremonies worldwide since Friday. Francis wrote the “Canticle of the Creatures,” an ode to all of God’s living creatures.

Dogs large and small, from young and hyper pups to old stoic hounds, mingled as the service was celebrated. As worshippers sang hymns, some small dogs strained against their leashes and wandered under the folding chairs to sniff and paw at other pooches.

According to Grace’s website, “the South Loop has one of Chicago’s largest concentration of pets, and Grace realizes the important roles they play in residents’ lives.”

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Rev. Amity Carruba leads Grace’s “Blessing of the Animals” service in Printers Row Park on Sunday in the South Loop. Two dogs mingle in the meantime.

Michael McDevitt/For the Sun-Times

For example, Laura and Thomas McGuire aren’t members of Grace but live near the park and brought their two dogs, Kirby and Sprock, to be blessed. Sprock is a 4-year-old mixed breed, and Kirby is a 12-year-old Yorkshire Terrier.

Laura said it reminded her of pet blessings she’d been to growing up in Georgia, where she attended Episcopalian services.

And, she added, “It was a great way to see all the dog lovers in the neighborhood.”

Kim Callis, 55, on the other hand, has been attending services at Grace for more than two decades and brought her friend’s pet, a small white dog named Sony.

“What I like is the inclusion and recognition of pets in our lives,” Callis said. “For a lot of people in this city, their pets really are their children.”

Mary Pignotti, 47, brought her tall Great Dane Viggo to be blessed and said he’d been blessed twice before. She said she did the same thing for years with her previous Great Dane.

After some readings, the three leaders of the service, Rev. Amity Carruba and Rev. Garth Howe from Grace and Rev. Ben Adams from Holy Trinity, had pet owners form three lines to have their pets receive a short blessing. After the blessings, the three led the rest of the outdoor service.

An organization called Friends of Petraits set up a table at the blessing ceremony hoping to connect some puppies to new homes. Petraits is a pet photography studio, but it also does pet rescue and adoption.

A few collection plates were passed around to benefit Petraits.

A couple of other pet-focused businesses and organizations made up a pet fair that followed the blessings, which included a dog day care company, a dog trainer, a dog rehabilitation therapist and a roaming photographer taking free portraits of pets and their owners.

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Thomas and Laura McGuire hold Kirby and Sprock, respectively. They’re not Grace Church members but live in the South Loop near the park, so they said they stopped by after seeing fliers for the pet blessing.

Michael McDevitt/For the Sun-Times

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