LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Pets and people came together to honor the Patron Saint of Animals: Saint Francis.
Churches from around the world celebrate the Feast of St. Francis the Sunday closest to Oct. 4.
To celebrate, many Catholic and Episcopal churches ask members to bring their pets with them for a special blessing.
For decades, St. Cyprian Episcopal Church in Lufkin has done just that, but this year opened up the celebration to the entire community.
"The Episcopal church has always observed it with a blessing of the critters," said Jim Bell, church member and basset hound lover.
"I just feel that animals should be represented in church too because they're special parts of our lives," said Haley Squires, church member and cat owner.
Father Art Callaham of Saint Cyprian Church agrees. He says St. Francis used animal metaphors during his 13th century ministry. He added that humans still have a lot to learn from their pets.
"The animals that are apart of our lives are living parables. Allow us to learn more about God by understanding our relationship with them," said Father Callaham.
Church member Jim Bell and his family have four basset hounds that are all members of the family.
"Today, we celebrate the unconditional love that our pets have for us," said Bell.
Father Callaham blessed dogs, rabbits, horses, even a llama, and church member Haley Squires' beloved cat, Aly.
"They bring such passion and they bring such love to a family and they help you learn responsibility," said Squires.
The event also included local animal rescue and service organization booths. The Humane Society of Angelina County's Lacy Bland is using the opportunity to educate pet-owners about their low-cost spay and neutering program.
"It's real important that we help people get their pets spayed and neutered because one day we hope that humane society wouldn't have to exist," said Bland.
Father Callaham says the event brings both flocks, animal and human, together.
"Draw special attention to that relationship for just a moment - a brief prayer, a brief thanksgiving for the life of their pet," said Callaham.