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Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017
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Pets receive blessings at St. Francis of Assisi

SEFFNER - For a while there, it looked as if plans to bless the animals on St. Francis of Assisi's feast day would be a wash, as a vicious lightning storm passed across eastern Hillsborough County. But just in time, the skies began to clear. Major Pain, the German shepherd, Copper the bassett hound, Lenny the hedgehog and the others dodged rain drops and headed out with their humans to the church in Seffner named for the patron saint of animals, to get a special blessing. Members of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church gathered in front of the church for a bilingual Mass and to have their animals sprinkled with holy water. "I just wanted her to be blessed," said Virg Gascon, holding his 12-year-old dachshund, Mindy. "This is like the fifth or sixth time I've brought her."
"This is the first year we've been here for this," said Dennis Firlik, who along with his wife, Sue, brought their 5-year-old Chihuahua, Sonny, and 4-year-old Chinese crested, Rusty. "We just thought it was really nice that they had this Mass and all." Barry Caskey came toting his daughter Elizabeth's hedgehog. "She's away at UCF, so I told her I'd bring him," he said, holding a large bubble inside which Lenny lay in a ball. "He's really cool. My daughter usually handles him with a glove, and he's prone to bite," Caskey said with a laugh. Sue Jordan brought Copper, her 8-year-old basset. "He's not well," Jordan said. "I just felt like he needed a special blessing." As for Tink, the beagle, well, she's afraid of lightning and stayed home with her dad. "If it hadn't rained, we'd have done all of this out on the grounds," said the Rev. Michael O'Neill, who presided over the Mass with the Rev. Ramon Martos. "And normally, we'd have a cacophony here." But because of the weather, the Mass drew only about a dozen animals. "St. Francis was an outdoor man," O'Neill told the parish. "He looked at all animals of creation and saw they were simple … in their ways. He wanted us to live like that and depend on God for all we need. "Lead a simpler life," he said. "That is the message of St. Francis."

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