On October 7, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church held its annual Blessing of the Animals event. Though all pets were welcomed, it was predominantly dogs in attendance, and one brave cat, Daphne. All donations benefitted the Human Society of Naples.
Reverend Kyle Bennett called the ceremony to order with a song titled, “All God’s Critters,” performed by him and youth minister, Shane Totten. They then performed a more serious ballad titled, “Dog Breath” before commencing the blessing ceremony.
Rev. Kyle and Rev. Sue Price stood at the front ofthe hall and pet owners and animals alike filed into two less-than-organized lines. Barking and butt sniffing ensued. One-by-one pets went up and were given a pat on the head and a blessing.
After the ceremony, those in attendance were welcomed to a memorial service conducted by Rev. Sue for beloved dog Elvis, who passed in March 2014.
“St. Mark’s provides service and care and ceremonies for everyone,” said Elvis’ owner Tim Coyle, “including pets, which I think is unique and remarkable.”
Unique it is. Rev. Sue’s career is not whatyou would call orthodox. She specializes in pet ministry. “I am a pet minister, and what I do is minister to families with pets because we consider pets to be part of the family. It’s a cradle to grave, so to speak, ministry,” said Rev. Sue. “If someone gets a new pet I will come bless and welcome the pet. If the pet gets sick, at a certain time I will go and say prayers for the family.”
Rev. Sue offers pet services on Wednesday nights, where owners canbring their well-behaved animals and sit for a church service. She says that it has a calming effect for those in attendance. She also specializes in grief counseling.
“For a number of people it’s very hard to admit that they’re grieving for an animal,” Rev. Sue said. “People who aren’t pet people don’t understand the kind of loss. It’s like ‘Oh, just get another one.’ But they’re not interchangeable.”
In December, Rev. Sue is hosting “Cat Chat Tea,” an event where cat owners bring pictures of their cats, drink tea and eat snacks. All are welcome.