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Blessing creatures great and small


Blessing: ACU library staff member Justin Royes with rescue dog Willow, Melissa Davis and chicken Red, Dr Keiran Flanagan with cocker spaniel Lucy, Fr Joseph Nguyen from Little Flower, Kedron, and Grace O’Kane with Diamond. Photos: Emilie Ng

NEITHER Noah, nor his ark, was present on an overcast September 21, yet animals gathered two-by-two at Banyo’s Australian Catholic University campus for a blessing. 

The annual event led, by Franciscan Father Harry Chan, acted as an early celebration of the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, which falls on October 4. 

St Francis is recognised as the patron saint of animals and ecology. 

In the words of Fr Chan, St Francis “was a lover of animals” and “treated all creatures as our brothers and sisters”. 

As a Franciscan, it was appropriate that Fr Chan invited the community to attend the fauna-centred event and contribute to “raising awareness for animal care”. 

Fr Harry Chan

Spiritual welfare: Fr Harry Chan blesses a nursing student’s best friend.

From religious reptiles to canonical canine, the “zooniversity” welcomed all walks of wildlife. 

Even Isa Brown chickens, Red and Diamond, made an appearance alongside their owner, Melissa Davis. 

Ms Davis said both chickens were “important members of the family” as well as divulging how the birds had previously fallen ill, whilst living in far north Queensland. 

They have since recovered and as most healthy hens can, lay two eggs per day. 

According to Ms Davis, their fortunate recuperation was partially attributed to the sanctifications and support provided by similar events. 

She talked about the necessity of having her pets blessed.

“If you’re going to have an animal, you have to take full responsibility for their wellbeing,” she said. 

The occasion was further enriched by the prescence of Tabitha, the Jerusalem donkey. 

At a mere five years of age, Tabitha has already performed in Nativity scenes, Palm Sunday celebrations, school fetes and birthday parties. 


Humble animal: Donkeys Tabitha and Katie with owner Mel Stubbs.

Tabitha was accompanied by her 25-year-old relation, Katie, and owner, Mel Stubbs, of Brisbane Pony Parties. 

Having participated in the event before, Ms Stubbs revealed her reasons for choosing to have her donkeys blessed by a priest. 

“They deserve to be treated just as well as we treat ourselves and each other,” she said.

Yet, the pets weren’t the only participants with wagging tails. 

Fr Chan was also thrilled at the attendance of both young and elderly alike. 

The blessing of animals was a Franciscan tradition, he said. 

“It has been going on for many years all over the world,” Fr Chan said.

In his prayer during the blessing, the ACU chaplain showed he was an avid advocate for the spiritual acknowledgment of animals, saying “they are all part of God’s creation and sometimes, human beings think that they are the only ones who can praise and give thanks to God”.

Whether skin or scales, claws or paws, the legacy of St Francis reminds us that God’s love does not discriminate. 

sophia asnicarBy Sophia Asnicar

Sophia Asnicar is a student from St Rita’s College, Clayfield. She joined The Catholic Leader team for work experience recently. 

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