VALDOSTA – Father Jim Elliott of St. James Episcopal Church in Quitman stood outside the historic Lowndes County Courthouse in Downtown Valdosta Saturday to bless community members' beloved pets.

The ceremony is typically held Oct. 4 on the Feast of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. Organizers changed the date of the ceremony so more people would be able to attend.

“When St. Francis was a young man, he took a vow of poverty and set aside the trappings of the world and focused his life and ministry not only on the poor but taking care of God's creations and thus our companion animals,” Elliott said. “We gather today to bless these animals and thank God for giving them to us.”

Elliott stepped in front of each animal in attendance and blessed them “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” using blessed holy water.

For attendee Tiffanie Richardson and her dog, Zoie, it was a time to reflect on what a blessing animals truly are to their owners.

“I wanted to come because dogs are one of the greatest blessings,” Richardson said. “It's great to have a pastor who does this because dogs have issues, like cancer, just like humans do.”

Although only in its second year, Paige Dukes, Lowndes County clerk and public information officer, said she plans to continue the tradition for years to come.

“It's a good opportunity for our community to be reminded what an important part of the community these animals are,” Dukes said.

There is not currently a date set for the 2020 blessing but Duke anticipates it will be sometime in mid-October. 

Desiree Carver is a reporter at the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be reached at (229) 244-3400 ext. 1215.

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