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St. Mary School holds Blessing of the Pets

Kolson, left, and Jaxon Bruno stand with their six donkeys outside St. Mary School before the blessing of the animals was conducted on Tuesday afternoon. TOP RIGHT:

MARTINS FERRY — Dozens of St. Mary Central students’ pets, including dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, chickens, lizards and fish, received blessings during the school’s annual Blessing of the Pets, held each year on Oct. 4.

On Tuesday, parents and guardians stood outside at the school’s parking lot with their children’s pets in tow as they waited for students to come out for the annual tradition. Once outside, students eagerly ran to their animals — and up to others, asking to see and touch each other’s pets. Smiles were on everyone’s faces as they visited and talked about one another’s animals.

Some of the animals were familiar to students, having attended for years in a row. Such is the case for parishioners Joe and Peggy Goclan who bring their horses, Billy and Bob, to the school each year.

The couple’s now adult grandchildren previously attended the school but they decided to continue bringing the animals as it makes the students happy. The couple has done this for the past 10-15 years with many of the students recognizing the horses immediately upon seeing them.

“This is our third set of horses we’ve brought,” Joe chuckled while acknowledging the length of time they have attended the blessing ceremony.

“We come for the kids. … The kids love the horses. It makes them happy,” Peggy said. “Last year, the kids asked if the trailer was where the horses lived. Joe said, ‘No, it’s just their school bus.'”

Cohn Probst, 8, held his dog Jaxon for a blessing while his parents, Chuck and Karen, held the lead on the family’s other dog, Eli. Karen said they bring the dogs each year to receive a blessing.

“We bring them every time. Everyone really enjoys it. We enjoy it. It’s great for the kids,” Karen said.

Aiden Giffon, 14, proudly held his two old English bantam chickens named Jalapeno and Pepper. He said he was happy to be able to bring the chickens to the school. He said he has been a member of 4-H for years and shows the animals at the Belmont County Fair.

A line formed around a new addition to this year’s blessing — six donkeys who remained inside a trailer. The donkeys belong to brothers Kolson, 6, and Jaxon Bruno, 11. The boys’ parents and grandparents were there to hand out pieces of bread to the kids to feed to the animals. Jaxon proudly showed off the animals to his friends, explaining that he could recite all six of the donkey’s names.

After the kids visited each other and the animals for a little while, the Rev. John Musha recited his prayer for the animals. Afterward, he made his way through the crowd to scatter holy water on all the animals in attendance. He made sure students held on to their furry friends as “most don’t like water.”

Annette Wiater, a third grade teacher at the school, said the annual event is held to honor St. Francis’ on his feast day of Oct. 4.

“The children love to have a family member bring their pets to receive a blessing and share their special furry animals with other students,” she said, adding that they typically have a variety of animals that attend.

“It is always a great day to celebrate the special love we receive from our pets with others.”

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