What do you notice when you drive into St. Francis de Sales Parish? It didn’t take long for me to notice a couple of interesting things as I drove onto the campus in my first few days at the parish. One of the first things you see as you drive in is a “LAB XING” sign—a wonderful sign that tells us that you might see one of those lovable dogs on campus. As you approach the rectory, you spot something on the right hand of the sidewalk–a statue of a black Labrador retriever. From those things alone, I knew I was coming to an awesome parish!
It didn’t take long to realize why we have the statue and LAB XING sign on our property. It turns out that Fr. Schleicher loved dogs too! He owned two black labs - both named Patty. It is said that he often laughed at how the school children would see him walking his dog and totally ignore him as they called out “Hi, Patty!” This makes me laugh because it is so true!
It reminds me of the many priests I know nowadays that mention how their dogs do most of the evangelizing for them as people approach them for their dogs more than for them. Growing up in Akron, I always admired how priests like Fr. Kraker from St. Vincent would walk his black labs around the city neighborhoods. In my own life, I came to learn our whole neighborhood simply because of walking our dogs.
You may or may not know it by now but I am a dog lover. I grew up with them. I love how they bring joy and comfort to one’s life. I love how they invite you to daily walks that help you live a good, healthy life. They also welcome you every day when you come home. For the last five years of priesthood I have wanted a dog. Now that I am able to get one, I am waiting for the right moment. Maybe Christmas? Maybe in the new year? Maybe after we move into the Memorare Center?
There is a funny story that happened back in February that served as a sign that maybe I was coming to this parish. On a cold February morning Fr. Bearer emailed me and said that a parishioner told him how she had a dream that the next pastor who came here would get a dog! Little did Fr. Bearer know that he sent it to me during my interview for this parish. I thought it was pretty amazing! Any way! Here I am! And I am so grateful!
One of the many joys of priesthood is being able to bless things like homes, special moments in life, etc. But in a special way, I love the pet blessing! I think because it is usually chaotic with dogs barking, cats meowing, horses neighing, birds chirping, etc! Very lively!
So, are you a dog lover? Bring your dogs! How about a cat lover? Or fish? Or birds? Or horses? Whatever pet you have, come on by next Sunday @ 4:00 pm on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi for the Pet Blessing at the Pavilion. It should be a great time to give thanks to God for the gift of these awesome, furry companions in our lives!
May God’s peace and joy be with you,
Fr. Jeremy Merzweiler