A gentle wind ruffled the leaves, and the sun shone gently on the gathering of pet owners waiting for the Blessing of the Animals at Grace Episcopal Church Saturday.

The church offered the blessing in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who was known to preach to the birds.

“It’s tradition,” said Father Gary Gooch, who officiated over the ceremony. “It’s a celebration of the beauty of God’s creations and his creatures.”

Several dogs, along with their owners and one cat, attended the ceremony to be blessed. A neighborhood dog, known as Annie, left her fenced yard to bound across the field to take part as well.

The feast day for St. Francis is Oct. 4 and is celebrated worldwide. He died Oct. 3, 1226, and is known as the patron saint of the environment and animals because he loved all creatures and was said to preach to the birds, according to information provided by Stephanie Park. His name and work are carried on today by the Franciscan order.

Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church and Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic School also had a Blessing of the Animals. Families were invited to bring their pets after Mass for the blessing, which was presided over by Father James Dvorak.

Saturday, Father Gooch opened the blessing with the Prayer of St. Francis:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O, God, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

Following the prayer, he blessed each pet, saying its name. “May you be blessed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May you and your owner enjoy life together and find joy with the God who created you.”

The first was Layla, owned by Patrick O’Neil. Mason Killin held Park’s dog, Grace, as she was blessed. Park’s other dog, a pug named Petunia, was also up for a blessing.

Gracie Cook brought her 13-year-old rescue dog, Sasha, to the event. “She is a blessing to have,” said Cook, who said Sasha enjoyed coming and has been blessed before.

Dennis Wittnebert said he brought his dog, Sophie, to be blessed.

Kathy Leabo brought her dog, Scruffy, while her daughter, Kris Leabo, brought Sammy, the pet of a close friend who suffered a stroke.

Sammy has his own story to tell. When he was just a couple of weeks old, he was picked up by a hawk, which dropped him, said Kathy Leabo. He was taken to the shelter to be -d, but one of the workers decided to save the little puppy and did.

“She raised a collection and healed him. My friend adopted him, and he was with her when she had her stroke,” she said.

One member of the feline persuasion made it to the blessing, Cleopatra. Her owner, Margaret West, said she was a Hurricane Harvey cat who “sailed over from Bay City. She’s been a gift to me.”

Cleopatra handled her blessing like the queen she is.

As the event was wrapping up, a neighborhood dog decided to slip her fence and come bounding over to meet the dogs.

Brandon Smith, who owns Annie, a Jack Russell terrier, said they drove nearly to Oklahoma to pick her up as a puppy, and she was glued to his side. But now there is a baby, Hagen, and the dog has become his best friend. Their other dog, Duke, was brought out to receive his blessing.

Father Gooch ended the event with a prayer and an admonition to “go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.”