Students, families and staff at St. Gregory Cathedral School and All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler celebrated the well-known Christian figure, St. Francis, Monday by blessing their four-legged friends and other pets.

Oct. 4 is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, a day celebrated annually at St. Gregory. St. Francis is the patron saint of environment and animals, St. Gregory Cathedral School Principal Michelle Caccitolo said.

Caccitolo said St. Francis loved all creatures, and people believe he might have even preached to the animals. He was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon, mystic and preacher. St. Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1228. It has become a tradition for churches to host ceremonies blessing animals around Oct. 4.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Pastor Father Hank Lanik blessed the pets on Monday, including stuffed animals that students brought, Caccitolo said. Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler also participated in the ceremony.

Caccitolo noted the pets in attendance included dogs, cats, hermit crabs and even a hedgehog.

“It’s a great way to celebrate with our families including our four-legged members,” she said.

Caccitolo said the first-grade students also put on a play about the life of St. Francis, and the choir sang the prayer of St. Francis.

All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler also participated in the blessing of the pets on Monday with several animals stopping by the school.

Mike Cobb, All Saints head of school, said families were invited to bring their pets for blessing and to honor pets who have died. He added this event is a favorite among students because they have a unique opportunity to share their pets with friends and faculty.

Priest Father Kevin Wittmayer and Father John Carr came to All Saints to welcome a variety of family pets from dogs to lizards.

This year included a special blessing with the new tortoise, Miss T, who lives in the school’s Outdoor Learning Center in her own habitat.

“Pets are such an important part of the life of a lot of families and so it’s good to be able to bring a blessing to them and share in the joy,” Cobb said.


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I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.