Blessing of the Animals


    St. Raphael’s Event on Sept. 28

    To many of us, our pets are absolutely our Best Friends, providing joy, companionship and unconditional love! St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church at 5601 Williams Drive is celebrating that special relationship with a Blessing of The Animals on Saturday, September 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Reverend John Adler of St. Raphael’s will bless pets during that entire time. Reverend John stated, “We will, however, do a Special Blessing at 1 p.m., for pets who are suffering or already passed on. This includes a reading of the moving ‘Rainbow Bridge,’ and if you are familiar with that story, you know there will not be a dry eye in the house!”

    In addition to Pet Blessings, St. Raphael’s hosts a number of other activities, said Laurie Nienhaus, Parish Administrator. “Everglades Wonder Gardens will bring animals like an albino red-tailed hawk and bearded dragon. Find A Home Give A Home offers kittens to adopt. The Shorebird Stewardship Program needs volunteers, and Turtle Time, Inc. will explain how they protect our nesting sea turtles.”

    At Noon, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit will provide a demonstration. “Here, we need your help,” smiled Laurie. “The K9 Unit are working animals, so if they receive a call, they must immediately leave, so we ask everyone to say a little prayer that no major crimes occur that Saturday, so these magnificent animals can spend uninterrupted time with us!”

    Immediately following the K9 Unit demonstration is the “Most Talented” and “Coolest Pet” Contests. “In addition to these,” stated Laurie, “we have a ‘Cutest Pet’ Photo Contest, with pet pictures people send in advance, so email your pet photograph to or text it to 239-463-1079 by Thursday, September 26. Another contest will be ‘Caption This,’ where we post on the wall a number of humorous animal photographs and you provide the verbiage, so we anticipant many fun phrases! All the various winners will receive a prize.”

    St. Raphael’s will also have a photo booth to take pictures of you and your four-legged friends. “Maybe some folks and their pets will come in costume,” Laurie said, “to perhaps get a jump on your Christmas Cards. Jessie Titus, who most people know as a terrific local realtor, is also a well-known professional clown, and she will have props and antics to get you and your pet in a silly mood. There will be a coloring table for kids, as we hope to attract families with children. All this occurs at mid-day, so we offer lunch at just $4-per-person, with a fresh-grilled Nathan’s hot dog, bag of chips, soda and hopefully some dessert. For pets, there will be bowls of cool water and treats. Other than the ‘K9 Demonstration,’ all activities occur inside our air-conditioned Comfort Hall.”

    Enter Together

    While there is no admission fee, St. Raphael’s asks all attendees to donate a can or bag of cat or dog food. “Please make cat donations either Friskies Wet Cat Food or Purina Cat Food,” Laurie asked. “All dogs must be on a leash, but it is not limited to cats or dogs, so you can bring your pet horse or iguana, but they must be under your control at all times.”

    While St. Raphael’s previously hosted  Animal Blessings, Reverend John explained, “these have always just been for our Parish community. Since the senseless loss of our beloved Library Director, Dr. Leroy Hommerding, this past January, the Ministerial Association of Fort Myers Beach now hosts several community events to bring us all together, like the extremely successful ‘Health Care Clinic’ earlier this month at Beach Baptist, and ‘Blessing of the Animals’ is another forum. St. Raphael’s wants to be a little selfish here, to let more people to know about our parish hidden away in this part of the island, but if we are not the right outlet to bring the Word of God into your life, there are other terrific religious choices on our island.” For information on the Blessing of The Animals, call St. Raphael’s at 239-463-6057.

    When reminded that roughly five years ago, Pope Francis, who took his name from St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Animals, strongly hinted that, when they die, our pets go to Heaven, Reverend John exclaimed, “Fine with me! That is what ‘Rainbow Bridge’ is all about – when you are about to cross into Heaven, and your late pet sees and runs to meet you, and you enter together!”


    By Gary Mooney