Throughout the weekend, Upper West Siders celebrated the Feast of Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment, with blessings and pet-centric services at St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church on 86th Street as well as the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on 114th.
Reverend Lea Matthews of St. Paul and St. Andrew oversaw a Friday evening service at the church and credited her own dog, Hattie, a 14-month-old Goldendoodle, for inspiring her to host others in honoring their pets.
“I thought it was an opportunity to meet people in their every day lives,” she said. “There are so many people whose animal companions are very important to them, and what a wonderful opportunity for the church to recognize that relationship.”
On Sunday afternoon, Upper West Siders took part in the 32nd annual gathering at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Traditionally, the service has included a procession of animals inside the cathedral. Due to a fire that occurred on Palm Sunday and the church’s subsequent cleaning and conservation efforts, the event took place outside on church grounds. Representatives for the church noted that they expect the traditional service and procession to return to the cathedral in 2020.
“The event is really exciting,” said Isadora Wilkenfeld, Manager of Cathedral Programming and Communications at St. John the Divine. “It’s such a wonderful expression of both the spirituality around animals and the natural world, and also just a wonderful way to see the whole neighborhood community come out and celebrate their pets and life in general.”