By Isabelle Passamore
Earlier this month, students at Wilson had the opportunity to participate in the longstanding tradition of blessing the animals on campus. On Wednesday, October 5, students gathered to have their pets blessed by Chaplain Derek.
The Blessing of the Animals is a widely celebrated event in many churches which dates to the 1200’s. It is a Roman Catholic tradition said to have been created by St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to celebrate creation, the environment, and animals.
Chaplain Derek has performed the ceremony six times since 2017, but the tradition has been part of life at Wilson for many years prior. The event has taken place every year, even during the COVID-19 shutdowns when the ceremony was pre-recorded.
When reflecting on the ceremony from a faith-based perspective, Chaplin Derek says that “it reminds [us] of the Creation that God has given us to tend, and a reminder that we are part of a system of living creatures and organisms and have obligations to be good stewards of Creation.”
He also takes an institutional perspective into consideration since there are many animals on campus, including horses and farm animals, dogs at the Veterinary Education Center, and the pets of students that all impact life on campus.
Many of the animals on campus are also working in various capacities, such as educational animals for the Veterinary Nursing students or Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals who support students on their journey through college. These animals are a large part of the Wilson College community, and one of the purposes of the ceremony is to honor their significance.
The ceremony also fosters the idea that pets are family members that build strong attachments with students, forming bonds that can be acknowledged even after death.
Chaplain Derek would also like to remind students who could not participate in the ceremony that he is available to bless their pets at other times. This includes pets who are not on campus and those that have passed away if a photo is provided.