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They’re praying for pets

The service is short and sweet on purpose since those attending don’t have much of an attention span.

And that’s usually OK for the pet owners, too, who bring their four-legged friends to the annual Blessing of the Pets at Church of the Redeemer Episcopal Church each year.

This year’s service and prayer is Sunday at 3 p.m. in the church courtyard, said Rev. Anne Matthews.

Following a 10- to 15-minute service, Matthews will offer blessings over the pets individually.

Pets should be on leashes or in carriers, she said.

The service is a celebration for St. Francis, also known as the patron saint of animals, and dates back to the Middle Ages though it’s only been around at Redeemer since about 2001.

In its origins, farmers would deliver their livestock to the priest to receive the blessing. In modern times, the church sees mostly domesticated household pets.

Matthews prays over mostly dogs. She’s blessed a few cats and seems to recall a lizard once. She’s not opposed to blessing a snake, but it has to be well contained.

Father Gene Bennett, who started the services in Brookhaven, once even blessed a possum named Gladys.

In memory of St. Francis, the church also uses the animal blessing ceremony to make an annual contribution to the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League. Angels in the Attic makes the donation on behalf of the church.

The church also accepts donations of pet food that will be presented to BARL.