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First United Methodist Church co-Pastors Ron Harris and Karla Sheffy bless Salem the cat in Peter Pan Park Saturday morning. The service celebrated the lives of beings on earth, drawing peoplo from a wide swath of faith backgrounds.

In the freshly rained-on Peter Pan Park, the Humane Society of the Flint Hills, First United Methodist Church and pet owners celebrated all animal life Saturday morning.

The two organizations co-hosted a Blessing of the Animals event, during which Emporians were invited to bring their pets and recognize wild animals to be blessed by co-Pastors Ron Harris and Karla Sheffy.

Harris and Sheffy have experience hosting animal blessings at previous churches they served. This was the first time they hosted one in Emporia, and they are looking toward doing another one. Humane Society Executive Director Caitlin Flood is a member of First United Methodist Church and was approached by Sheffy to co-host the event.

“I figured it would be a good event to do — combine my work life with the Humane Society and my church life with the First United Methodist Church,” Flood said.

One aspect of the event was raising awareness of the Humane Society of the Flint Hills and collecting donations and supplies.

The service celebrated all life, human and both domestic and wild animals. The animal blessing honors Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Blessing tags were handed out after the service.

“[Animals] are just as important for my spirit — that they’re there, that they’re a part of who we are as humans,” Sheffy said. “They benefit us in so many ways; plus, it’s not just for our benefit — just being.”

Emporia State University student Lucas Lord attended the event with his cat Salem. Lord got Salem in January from the Helping Hands Humane Society in Topeka and he has been Lord’s emotional support animal since. Salem came to the shelter on Christmas Eve.

“He’s really helped me out a lot, and I felt like this was something I could do to give back to him, because he can’t really tell me exactly what he wants,” Lord said. “I thought this would be an extra layer of support that I could give back to him.

“I think, regardless of religious affiliation, it’s nice to give back to your animal companions.”

To support the Humane Society of the Flint Hills, visit humanesocietyflinthills.org/donate.

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