Chestnut Hill resident Jim Reynolds brought his 4-year-old Corgi, Sophie, to be blessed by the Rector.

Chestnut Hill resident Jim Reynolds brought his 4-year-old Corgi, Sophie, to be blessed by the Rector.

by Barbara Sherf

At the local commemoration of St. Francis Day’s Blessing of the Animals last Sunday, the good-natured Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, Rector at Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill, shared his experiences at two separate events.

“I was peed on by a dog at Pastorius Park and slobbered on by horses outside of the church,” said the jovial rector as he brushed off pet hair from his black raincoat. “It was an amazing day.”

About 30 dogs were blessed at Pastorius Park, followed by another dozen dogs, several cats, four horses from Monastery Stables in Mt. Airy and even a guinea pig outside of the church on a sunny fall afternoon. Rev. Kerbel noted that he and his family had recently adopted a pit bull after seeing its photo and caption in the Chestnut Hill Local. The family also has two cats.

“We had lost our dog and were ready for another. They touch you in so many ways. As an animal lover, I’m getting so much from being around God’s creatures today,” he said, following the individual blessings of each animal.

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.”

Rev. Kerbel moved from the guinea pig to the dogs, then the cats and the horses. “I bless you and give thanks for all the doggie love and goodness you give,” Rector Kerbel prayed over Sophie, a 4-year-old Corgi, owned by Joanne and Jim Reynolds of Chestnut Hill. “It’s nice to have this blessing as they are God’s creatures too,” said Joanne Reynolds, a member of the church.

Mt. Airy resident and Monastery Stables boarder Paula Siry was on her 16-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 over the weekend. (You may remember the story about how Lance was rescued from the road in front of their Emlen Street home over the summer by two Arcadia students and myself.)

“All the more reason to have the animals blessed,” said Siry, a member of the church, who noted they had buried Lance in their yard earlier in the day. “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 earlier this year.”

Her friend, Renny Garcia, was riding Siry’s 17-year-old Friesian mare, Wietske. “All animals are important and touch us in so many ways,” said Garcia, who noted that her husband was bringing their dog for a blessing as well. “He (Rev. Kerbel) is very good with animals and even the horses.”

Rev. Kerbel noted that he grew up near a horse farm in New Jersey and has a fondness for equines. “This is such a loving moment to express the gratitude for the wonderful love these animals give us,” said a Chestnut Hill resident Sanna Randall while mounted on her painted horse, Geronimo.

“He said to me, ‘This horse is a blessing to me. He is so warm and soothing.’ He grew up around horses, and anyone who has been around them know how magical they can be,” she said, while Rev. Kerbel gave Geronimo a big hug.

“Look at them,” said Rev. Kerbel as the four horses made their way past the Philadelphia Cricket Club as the sun set to return to Monastery Stables. “Animals are our gift from God. They touch us and make us human.”

Barbara Sherf is a freelance writer and Flourtown resident. She can be reached at