Pet owners bring animals to annual blessing ceremony
When Laurie Crisi almost lost her best friend, 2-year-old Chihuahua Chico, she wanted to thank God he recovered after emergency bladder surgery about a month ago.
She got her chance to do that during the annual Blessing of the Animals ceremony Sunday at Round Hill Farm in Elizabeth.
"They said he wouldn't make it through the surgery," said Crisi, of Monessen, fighting back tears. "But being the praying woman that I am, I went to church and prayed for him. The last time he went to the vet, they gave him a clean bill of health.
"I brought him (to the ceremony) to be blessed and to thank God for saving him. He's my best friend."
Crisi's daughter Angelica, 9, also brought her two cats, Claire and Lisa, to be blessed.
About 50 animals were blessed during the 10th year of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and Fallen Timber Shelter-sponsored event. Rev. John Nosal, priest at St. Michael's Orthodox Church in South Greensburg, conducted the ceremony.
Nosal said a general prayer to begin the ceremony, asking for blessings for the animals and their owners. He then blessed each animal individually.
"They said I'm the first priest to bless the animals two years in a row, since they started doing this," Nosal said. "I think it's great. Plus, I love dogs. Whenever we're blessing anything, we're blessing everything."
The event also served as a fundraiser for the animal shelter. Pet owners were asked to make a donation to the shelter before or after the ceremony. The event usually generates about $200 to help the shelter rescue and house stray animals and eventually find them good homes, said Diane Nehila, manager of Fallen Timber Shelter.
Dennis and Marsha Chew, of Monongahela, have brought their dog Rooney to be blessed the past three years. The 103-pound yellow Labrador enjoys being around the other animals, especially a couple of beagles, Lambert and Bradshaw, which also have Steeler-related names.
"We're hoping that bringing him to be blessed will help him be a better puppy," Marsha Chew joked. "When we put his collar on him, he knew he was going somewhere special. It's a really nice event."
Frank and Judy Scrip, of Belle Vernon, have brought their rare breed Shiloh shepherds to the ceremony each year.
"We want God's blessings on them," said Judy Scrip of 140-pound London and his grandson, 115-pound Noah. "They go everywhere we go. They're part of the family. So we want them to be blessed."