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Creatures great and small get their blessing at Wilson

May 04, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Creatures great and small on leashes, bridles or cuddled in their owners' arms gathered outside Wilson College's Thomson Hall at noon Wednesday for the annual Blessing of the Animals.

Even Devil's Advocate, a 14-year-old Morgan horse belonging to Katie Douglas, was blessed in the brief ceremony, though the animal appeared more interested in grazing the college common's grass and clover.

"I just thought it would be something cute to do with him," Douglas said.

Meghan Mattoon, the owner of Myrrhwood Montgomery, an 18-year-old Morgan, said it was fun to bring her horse to a part of the campus where equines usually are not allowed. Horses are stabled across the Conococheague Creek, she said.

"There were lots of small animals because students are allowed to have them in their dorms," Chaplain Kate Smanik Moyes said. They included hamsters, guinea pigs and rats, she said.

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At least one ferret and a few dogs also showed up to get the blessing, a spring ritual which Smanik Moyes said began about a decade ago.

"The first full-time chaplain, Susan Olson, knew the students love animals," Smanik Moyes said, noting that Wilson offers equestrian studies and veterinary medical technician programs. Though the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi is Oct. 4, she said it was decided years ago to have the annual blessing toward the end of the spring semester.

"He called all animals 'brother' or 'sister,' though among all kinds of animals he preferred the gentle," said student Ana Muoz, reading from Thomas of Celano's "Lives of St. Francis" as she assisted in the ceremony.

"Fellow creature, friend and companion, may God your creator and preserver bless, defend and keep you this day and forever. Amen," Smanik Moyes said as Mattoon, Douglas and other pet owners came forward for the blessing.

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