Anne Harrower (crutches) with her mother, Monica, of Glenside, members of St. Martin’s, brought their guinea pig, Hazel, to be blessed by the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel last year. (Photo by Barbara Sherf)

by Barbara Sherf

For the third consecutive year a wide variety of animals will take part in a local commemoration of St. Francis Day’s Blessing of the Animals at two locations in Chestnut Hill. Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, Rector at Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill, will bless mostly dogs at Pastorius Park at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8, and then an assortment of creatures at the church, 8000 St. Martin’s Lane at Willow Grove Avenue at 1:30 p.m.

“Last year I was peed on by a dog at Pastorius Park and slobbered on by horses outside of the church,” said the jovial rector and animal lover, who adopted a pit bull named Oliver last September after seeing a photo and caption in this publication.

“We had lost our dog and were ready for another. They touch you in so many ways. As an animal lover, I get so much from being around God’s creatures,” said Kerbel, noting that at the church he has blessed cats, snakes, rodents and even horses. “Animals are our gift from God. They touch us and make us human.”

Rev. Kerbel will again welcome a group of riders from Monastery Stables in Mt. Airy. “One of our members boards her horses at Monastery Stables, and she and her friends plan to ride through the park to church as they did last year. Horses are animals with deep bonds with the riders, and it feels very good to give thanks to that relationship,” said Kerbel, who grew up around horses in New Jersey and mucked stalls as one of his summer jobs.

Mt. Airy resident and Monastery Stables boarder Paula Siry is the church member who spread the word to her equestrian community last year. She was on her 17-year-old horse, Charlie, while her husband and two children stood with Rosie, their Golden Retriever. The family shared that their pet Macaw, Lance, died suddenly that same weekend and was buried in their yard that same morning.

“All the more reason to have the animals blessed,” said Siry. “The Blessing of the Animals is an opportunity for us to celebrate the love we have for our animals and the joy they bring to our lives. For me personally, it’s very rewarding to be able to bring together these two communities, Monastery Stables and St. Martin’s Church, both of which have been so welcoming to me since I moved here with my family.”

At last year’s blessing, Glenside resident Anne Harrower and her mother, Monica, were among the early birds to receive a blessing for Hazel, a guinea pig adopted from the Montgomery County SPCA. “She’s very friendly but a bit intimidated by all of the other pets. We are really glad we came to have Hazel blessed,” said Monica, a member of the church, as Rev. Kerbel moved from animal to animal. “She is under one year old, and we don’t know her full story, but we feel like we are blessed to have her in our lives.”

For the safety of the animals, Rev. Kerbel asks that dogs be on a leash, especially at church. Cats and small animals should be brought in a carrier.

When not loving on her Golden Retriever rescue, Tucker, Barbara Sherf tells the stories of individuals and businesses at