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Contact: Christopher Heffron
800-488-0488, ext. 209
CHeffron@franciscanmedia.org

September 10, 2003     505 Words

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine Celebrates All Creatures Great and Small

CINCINNATI—Come the first Sunday in October, St. John the Divine Cathedral in upper Manhattan may look more like a petting zoo than an Episcopal church. But the ceremony will achieve a most holy aim: The entire family of creation will worship together with great joy. The pews of this large Gothic cathedral will be filled with the faithful, along with their furry, fuzzy and feathered friends, all celebrating its 19th annual St. Francis Day.

The popular celebration, along with St. John the Divine's dedication to the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, will be featured in the October issue of St. Anthony Messenger. In the photo story, "St. Francis Day at St. John the Divine," author and Contributing Editor Father Jack Wintz, O.F.M., who last year visited St. John's, describes the popular celebration that honors St. Francis, patron of animals and ecology. >

Creatures of land, water and sky will again this year make their way through the doors of St. John the Divine on October 5. Presiding over the celebration for the third straight year will be the Right Rev. Mark S. Sisk, a Third Order Franciscan in the Episcopal tradition. The bishop looks forward to this year's festive observance with great eagerness. "On St. Francis Day, we pull out all stops and make the joy of that celebration clear and dramatic for the entire world to see," he recently told St. Anthony Messenger.

Near the end of last year's ceremony, a man with an eagle perched on his gloved hand led the way into the church. A camel, two llamas, a ram, a full-grown bull, a boa constrictor and a macaw followed, just to name a few. The St. Francis Day Festival Choir enthusiastically sang an adaptation of St. Francis' "Canticle of the Sun," praising God through "Brother Sun," "Sister Moon and stars," as well as "Brother Wolf," "Sister Whale," "Sister Loon" and many other creatures.

Francis' love for all of creation was echoed throughout the celebration. The Very Rev. Dr. James Kowalski, dean of the cathedral, who delivered the sermon, urged everyone to "renew our commitment to being good stewards of the gift of creation." Near the end of the celebration, the large and exotic animals processed with their owners to the main altar to receive the bishop's blessing. After the ceremony inside was completed, those who wished, presented their pets for individual blessings outside on the lawn.

Bishop Sisk's prayer at last year's celebration speaks of gratitude and appreciation for all of God's creation. "We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth and sky and sea,...for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers, and for the wonder of your animal kingdom." After September 18, "St. Francis Day at St. John the Divine" will be posted online at AmericanCatholic.org.

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