Youths step up for animals in need - Catholic Courier
Father Christopher Linsler blesses pet food donations as a parishioner's German Shepherd looks on during a pet blessing at St. Mary Our Mother Church in Horseheads Oct. 4. The pet food was collected by kids in the faith formation program and it will be given to the Chemung County SPCA. Father Christopher Linsler blesses pet food donations as a parishioner's German Shepherd looks on during a pet blessing at St. Mary Our Mother Church in Horseheads Oct. 4. The pet food was collected by kids in the faith formation program and it will be given to the Chemung County SPCA.

Youths step up for animals in need

Last year, when the confirmation group at St. Mary Our Mother Parish in Horseheads began brainstorming potential community-service initiatives, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals quickly became a focal point.

"SPCA is always the number-one thing on their list," remarked Barbara Matterazzo, the parish’s faith-formation coordinator.

And for good reason, according to Jenna Nickerson and Kendyl Murray.

"Doing a service project for pets is important to me because pets depend on us to care for them," said Jenna, 14. "Also, God wants us to love and care for his creatures."

"Pets are important in people’s lives," added Kendyl, also 14. However, she lamented that not all animals receive the proper amounts of love and care — quite the opposite, in fact: "I hear many sad stories about how some are treated and I know they deserve better."

Armed with this awareness, Jenna and Kendyl’s confirmation group staged a project that brought a new wrinkle to their parish’s Blessing of the Animals — a wrinkle that will help creatures with the greatest need.

The annual pet blessing took place in the St. Mary Our Mother parking lot Oct. 4 — right on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. Matterazzo said there was "an awesome turnout" of approximately 40 dogs and 10 cats along with their owners. All the animals and humans were given blessings by Father Christopher Linsler, St. Mary Our Mother’s pastor. Father Linsler preceded the blessing by offering reflections on St. Francis, as well as God’s creation of animals and humans, as noted in the first chapter of Genesis.

Also receiving Father Linsler’s blessing were a massive accumulation of dog and cat food, treats, toys, blankets, towels, sheets, cotton balls and other supplies to be brought to the Chemung County Humane Society and SPCA in Elmira for animals that are sheltered there.

Father Christopher Linsler blesses the pets in attendance during an Oct. 4 pet blessing at St. Mary Our Mother Church in Horseheads.

The donations had been collected in a large tote located in the church vestibule — erected by the current first- and second-year confirmation students — that served as a dropoff for donations in the weeks leading up to the feast of St. Francis. Matterazzo reported that St. Mary Our Mother parishioners supported the initiative generously, donating close to 100 items.

She noted that the service project stemmed from the confirmation program’s emphasis on community service — "why it’s important to our faith, how we can help and be hands of Christ," she said. When the idea to help animals in need first surfaced, Kelly Murray — Kendyl’s mother, who serves as the confirmation group’s volunteer coordinator — contacted SPCA, which in turn suggested the food and supply drive.

The project was originally planned to be enacted several months ago, but Matterazzo explained that Father Linsler suggested it be shelved until Oct. 4 so it could be done concurrently with the Blessing of the Animals. With warm and sunny conditions that day to accompany the strong participation, it appeared to be well worth the wait.

"Oh, it was beautiful," Matterazzo said.

Jenna, who assisted with the project by donating items and helping draft an appeal notice for the church bulletin, said she was excited for the big day because she attended the parish’s Blessing of Animals a few years ago "and I remember that the best part was all of the people that showed up excited for their pets to be blessed."

Kendyl added that her own excitement was derived from seeing the many donations that she knew would help SPCA.

"I am glad we can help," she said.

Donated items were delivered to the Humane Society/SPCA on Oct. 25. Also that day, many of the confirmation students logged volunteer time there by cleaning and decorating the facility.

Matterazzo said the SPCA collection had started out as a one-time effort, but she wouldn’t be surprised to see it evolve into an annual event blending in with the Blessing of the Animals. In addition, she predicted that youths from St. Mary Our Mother will be more actively involved in supporting SPCA year-round due to their participation in the recent initiative.

"The kids truly enjoyed it, and it’s totally for a worthy cause, and we do have a quite large SPCA in the area that’s always asking for help," she said.

 

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