Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Blessing of the Animals is quite a howl at St. Matthias Lutheran


One parishioner took a snooze under the pews. One snarled at "St. Francis," the patron saint of animals. And one sprinkled his own brand of holy water on the bushes outside.

Saturday was the annual Blessing of the Animals at St. Matthias Lutheran Church, 2751 Sunset Point Road. It was, by all accounts, quite a howl.

When the congregation sang the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful, a rat terrier named T.J. and his poodle "brothers," Timothy and Bobby, joined in. Soon, they were leading the rest of the hounds in a call-of-the-wild chorus.

"They practice at home every day," said owner Judy Clark.

In addition to her singers, Clark brought Perry, a sprightly chihuahua/terrier mix with big, perky ears. He needed a permanent home.

"He was going to be euthanized," said Clark. "He was flown in from North Carolina by Pilots N Paws. He's here today representing all the animals that came on that flight and are hoping to get adopted."

Pastor Bill Magee said the church has been putting on the ceremony for years. It celebrates the feast of St. Francis of Assisi — a patron saint with a storied love of animals and nature.

As the dogs yelped, tugged on leashes and sniffed each other's rear ends, Magee said he likes to keep the service, held in the church's sanctuary, short.

"Pets are like kids," he said. "They don't have a long attention span."

In attendance were dozens of canines and a few wide-eyed felines in cages. They received a double blessing — one from Magee and the other from a brown-robed "St. Francis," a.k.a. Eugene Girardi.

Returning from the 13th century, the saint talked about his affinity for animals and how he once tamed a man-eating wolf that terrorized a small village.

But with all his talents, poor ol' St. Francis couldn't tame Jovie, a "peki-chi-weenie" (Pekingese, chihuahua and dachshund mix) that bared her teeth as he tried to bless her.

Many said they brought their pets because of health, behavioral or emotional issues. Others wanted to prepare them for a heavenly journey. Some thought it was a fun dog's day out.

Abbey, a 7-year-old Yorkshire terrier, was born in a puppy mill. Her owner, Bonnie Erickson, said at first the pup was terrified and didn't know how to play. Now, thanks to annual blessings, she's doing great.

"I feel like there's been divine intervention," said Erickson.

As for Perry, he found a permanent home that morning. Sharon Lawson and her son David Hanley adopted him.

"He's energetic and going to be lots of fun," she said. "I think he's perfect."

Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at

Blessing of the Animals is quite a howl at St. Matthias Lutheran 10/09/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 7:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa lands Super Bowl in 2021


    NFL owners have voted unanimously to move Super Bowl LV to Tampa in Feb. 2021. This will be the fifth time Tampa has hosted and the first time since 2009.

    Mike Tomlin celebrates with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in 

Super Bowl XLIII  on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [Times files (2009)
  2. Spacewalking astronauts pull off urgent repairs at International Space Station (w/video)


    CAPE CANAVERAL — Spacewalking astronauts completed urgent repairs at the International Space Station on Tuesday, replacing equipment that failed three days earlier and restoring a backup for a vital data-relay system.

    In this NASA provided frame from video, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer works to install antennas at the International Space Station while astronaut Peggy Whitson, not pictured, works on repairs Tuesday, May 23, 2017. [NASA via AP]
  3. Forecast: Severe storms, gusty winds for Tampa Bay as cold front arrives Wednesday


    Muggy and dry conditions will prevail across the Tampa Bay region ahead of a cold front that could produce gusty winds and potentially severe storms late Wednesday.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Angels, with Cobb leading the way


    Rays veteran RHP Alex Cobb had a lot to say Monday about the team needing to focus on getting past .500 and building a winning record.

    And after the disappointing 3-2 loss that …

    Alex Cobb will start tonight when the Rays play the Angels.
  5. Tampa murder suspect told police he wanted to stop neo-Nazi roommates from committing acts of domestic terrorism


    TAMPA — After he admitted to shooting two roommates and led police to their dead bodies, Devon Arthurs said he committed the killings to prevent the pair from carrying out terrorist acts, a prosecutor wrote in a court filing.

    Devon Arthurs, 18, told police  he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with his roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk, until he converted to Islam, according to a police report.
[Tampa Police]