Controlled chaos reigned outside St. Francis Xavier’s Catholic School early Wednesday afternoon.
Students and parents mingled with pets of all shapes and sizes for the school’s annual ‘Blessing of the Pets,’ a celebration of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.
The event has been a tradition at the private Catholic school for at least the last 20 years, said Terry Mermann, principal at St. Francis Xavier.
“Today’s the feast of St. Francis, and he was very much into the environment, nature and pets, and just seeing all the commonality of the world created by God,” Mermann said. “In some way or another, we’re all related. So this is an opportunity to bless our pets, with our families.”
Students lined up, each with their pet — or stuffed animal — to have it blessed by the pastor and deacon.
Dogs tugged on leashes, excited to be among so many people and fellow canines. One student carried a fish in a bowl, and a couple of families brought their guinea pigs and snails.
Amanda and Jamie Lane, who have two students currently at St. Francis Xavier, said their children look forward to the event all year.
“We actually do have dogs and other animals that they get excited to bring and show off,” Amanda Lane said.
In past years, the couple has seen a wide range of pets go through the blessing ceremony, including goats and, once, a horse.
“They’ll bless any pet you want blessed,” Jamie Lane said jokingly.
St. Francis of Assisi had a great love of nature, said Father Tim McKeown, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Brunswick.
“It’s a wonderful day for the students to show off their pets and see each others’ pets,” said McKeown, who helped conduct the blessing ceremony. “And then if they can’t actually bring their pet, they’ll bring a little stuffed animal in proxy.”
Earlier in the day, the students had mass and learned more about the life of St. Francis. And every year, parents, students and pets alike look forward to the blessing ceremony, Mermann said.
“We’ve continued the tradition, and it seems to get bigger every year,” he said.