YARMOUTH — Genn Branco of Freeport brought her newly adopted cat, Lilly, to the Sacred Heart Church on Main Street in a small pink dog stroller. She unzipped the basket and allowed the leashed kitty to explore the church grounds.

It was the first time Branco had attended the annual Blessing of the Animals.

Genn Branco of Freeport pets her cat, Lilly, at an animal blessing outside Sacred Heart Church in Yarmouth on Saturday. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

“I want her to be around for a long time and be healthy,” said Branco, who lost cats in 2020 and 2021. “To me, they’re so much more than pets. They’re companions. And they’re housemates.”

Branco was one of a half dozen pet owners to participate in the annual Blessing of the Animals by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. The Yarmouth event was one of 22 taking place this weekend throughout the state.

The event coincides with the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, who is known for his love of all God’s creatures, according to the diocese.

Father Peter began the ceremony with a Bible reading and a prayer. And then, one by one, he splashed each pet – four dogs and two cats – with three squirts of Holy Water from a small plastic bottle.


“Take good care of God’s creatures,” Father Peter said at the end of the ceremony.

Jeremiah Murray and Poppy Wanamaker, who were visiting family, brought Henri, a 6-month-old black mini poodle-Yorkie mix, to be blessed.

“The little guy, like all of us, needs all the help he can get,” Murray said.

“I think there’s no debate about whether animals have souls or not, so it’s really nice that the church has a little thing for them,” Wanamaker said. “I wish we could bring them to Mass.”

While only cats and dogs were at Saturday’s event in Yarmouth, Father Peter said that’s not always the case.

“Several years ago, we had a horse,” Father Peter said. “Sometimes we get birds, parakeets and rabbits.”


A few years ago, Murray said, he brought his bearded dragon.

Brenda and Tim Howard of Freeport brought their 11-month-old standard poodle, Chardonnay, a trained service dog, to be blessed.

“It’s important,” Brenda Howard said. “She’s special.”

Joe Pelletier of Yarmouth clutched his cat, Oliver, tightly. The indoor cat nearly scrambled away before the ceremony.

“It’s a good community event,” he said. “It’s a blessing – every little bit helps.”

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