Celebrating St. Francis Feast Day October, 4th with Woman Priest Judy Lee- Saving and Blessing Animals

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Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP and Brooklyn Big  who joined the other cats and birds at her home from the streets over a year ago. 

 Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFl,Inc., a 501c3 charitable organization, serves all of God’s creatures in the greater Fort Myers, area, prioritizing the poor, the homeless, the outcast and the most vulnerable. We have housed over seventy -five homeless people and their families with God’s grace. We have hot meals and a food pantry for God’s precious people  on Tuesdays and after Sunday Mass-2 PM  at our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community,2621 Central Ave,

Fort Myers, Fl, 33901.

Our St. Francis ministry helps feed, serve and find homes for homeless animals for we join St. Francis in his prayer:

“All praise to you, O God, for all these brother and sister creatures”.

St. Francis is the patron saint for animals and ecology as well as for the poor.

St. Francis, who gave up luxury to serve the poor and all of God’s creatures is one of our major inspirations. St. Claire is also our inspiration. In the “cause” made for St. Claire’s canonization her cat is included! St. Francis reminds us that love for God’s creatures and our pets draw us into the circle of life and towards our common relationship with our Creator.  The love of our pets is as healing to us as it is to them. Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz (American Catholic.org) points out that the story of Noah’s ark means that we are all in the same boat with the animals. When God saved Noah, God made sure the animals were saved as well. The Covenant God made after the Flood was with all of God’s creatures, not just humans. God enjoyed the animals in Eden and wants for all creatures to be in paradise forever, a paradise that must begin now as we create it for one another and all of God’s creatures. Pets are a sign of God’s love for us. It is because of our ruptured relationship with God and creation that there are pets that are just thrown away, left to fend for themselves, or abused in hard times.  Yet each one of us can do what we can to restore paradise for throw away people and throw away pets.

This is Lili, a member of our church. She does not have much money but we work together to rescue the throw away pets in her neighborhood. It is a poorer neighborhood and there are many.  When she rescues a pet, our ministry pays for it to get shots and a Doctor’s visit with Dr. Terry Sutton of Three Oaks Animal Hospital who gives us the discount of her fee. Nevertheless the tests,neutering and shots and often the treatment needed is from $300-500 per pet. Recently Lili was able to save three pets. This is Smoky and he is 3 months old now. Lili’s daughter Marcella rescued him from a backyard when he was barely weaned.

Image This is Lili and Smoky.

ImageThis is Marcella and Smoky. They have two other rescued cats and Lili has also rescued a 3 month old puppy from a man in the neighborhood who gets them in payment for his services and then sells them at at high price while letting them run out in the busy street. Lili could not afford the price he wanted but was so upset at seeing the puppy in the street that she bartered her television for him.  This is Little Spike, now a much loved puppy who is under the Vet’s care to get a good start.

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This is a St. Francis Prayer of blessing for all animals. You can bless your own dear animals and all strays with it:

Blessed are you Our God, maker of all living creatures…
You inspired St. Francis to call all animals brothers and sisters.

We ask you to bless this animal, NAME,

By the power or your love, enable it to live according to your plan.

May we praise you always for all beauty in Creation.

Blessed are you, our God, in all your creatures.  Amen.

You may also pray for all sick animals asking God to restore them to health and strength. We know that God knows when even a sparrow falls, so we pray in the confidence of God’s caring.

Losing a pet to death is as hard as losing a family member. We pray today for all those who have lost beloved pets, recently or in the past. I have my own litany of these. There is a wonderful book by Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz, OFM entitled “Will I see my Dog in Heaven?” You can get it through St. Anthony Messenger Press. He is convinced that God wants all of Creation restored and that our pets and other creatures included in the whole family of creation will live happily with God and us in the life to come.

This is Lili with Sunny. He came to her door in January of 2013. In August we learned that he had full blown AIDS and he left us in mid-  September to live in the light with God.  Sunny did bring sunshine into her life and into all lives he touched. We were so blessed to have him. Lili still grieves him, yet she has enough love to share with her new rescues. Thanks be to God.

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And below is Gaspare, Lili’s young adult son who assists me in the care of my Aviary of 30 birds and in administering meds to one of our 13 cats. This gentle young man is helping to save this cat’s life. He aids his mother in her rescue work. Image  

And finally below is “Farmer Joe” our last rescued cat who presented himself crying but refusing to eat at Lili’s door. She could not keep any more pets and he is a dominant male but we brought him to Dr. Sutton at Three Oaks Animal Hospital and are so happy that he is healthy and neutered now. Her wonderful Vet Tech, Joseph, is adopting him and he will live in a specially appointed barn on Joseph’s farm where he will have his own space near other cats and be able to go in and out and be fed regularly and well by Joseph’s wife.

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Farmer Joe is enjoying a treat.  Yesterday he went home with Joseph to meet his new family.

Blessings to Joseph and Lili and all who rescue cats and other animals. Dr. Sutton and Joseph also rescued a large flock of endangered Muscovy ducks from North Fort Myers and safely transplanted them to Joseph’s farm with County permission. Here I also think of a woman priest in Arizona, Marilyn Van Veersen who has rescued many dogs from the desert and who has about 15 rescued cats and kittens in housing that she builds and customizes for them. She recently transported two kittens to her friend Catherine in California who also helps support her work. And, I think of Dr. Danielle Nisivoccia who, along with a nearby friend, rescues many cats in Easton, Pennsylvania. Recently she was able to tame a beautiful Maine Coon cat  and drove him 250 miles to his new home in New York. He is the joy of the older woman who has adopted him who reports on his antics regularly. We thank God for the gift of loving God’s creatures and going the second mile to find them loving homes or to support those who do this work.

Have a blessed St. Francis Day.

Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP

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