“I remember Molly,” said Father Michael Travaglione, a Franciscan monk and retired Army chaplain, to a basset hound and beagle mix dog as he leaned over to scratch her behind her ear. Molly gently obliged the affectionate gesture by leaning in and wagging her tail.

Molly was one of more than 20 animals present during the annual Blessing of the Pets on Oct. 4 at Pope Chapel. In attendance was a horse, chickens, birds, cats, dogs, a praying mantis and more.

The event, presided by Travaglione, brought furry Family members of all textures and sizes together in remembrance of Saint Francis of Assisi’s love for animals.

The purpose of the event was to encourage familiarity and communion among those related to Pope Chapel and Fort Bragg, according to Susan Kroll, Catholic community coordinator.

“A lot of people who have pets — they’re really important to them; pets are part of their Family,” Kroll said. “It’s another reason to get together, and pray together and have some fellowship time to build a community.”

The ceremony began with a reading from the Book of Genesis followed by a passage from Psalms 8. During the readings, all attendees and their animal Family members gathered around Travaglione outside the chapel on the grassy lawn.

Some of the pets, like Mia, a 6-month-old puppy of Maj. Everett Henry, 406th Army Field Support Brigade, began howling in unison as the scriptures were read.

“She’s trying (to read along),” said Xandria Henry, wife of Maj. Henry, trying to hush Mia from audibly joining in the scripture reading.

On the opposite side of the lawn was Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Robertson’s Family. Rachel Robertson, stood behind her four kids who sat cross-legged on the grass with two of their dogs Lucy and Buddy crouched obediently beside them. The Family waited until it was their turn to bring the dogs to Travaglione to be blessed.

When it was Buddy’s turn to receive his blessing, he walked up wagging his tail, but cowered and leaned into his handler’s legs as the Holy Water was sprinkled onto him.

Rachel and her Family travelled from Aberdeen, North Carolina where they live. Her husband is stationed at Camp Mackall, but they come to Fort Bragg every week and sometimes more often to attend church at Pope Chapel.

“This is the first time we’ve attended the pet mass here,” Rachel said. “The kids enjoy it; they think it’s great. They actually wanted to bring the guinea pig.”

In previous years at other military churches, Rachel’s kids have attended pet blessings, but they could only bring the animal’s collars and never the pet itself. When they heard pets were allowed to attend the blessing at Bragg, they got excited.

“My youngest has been counting down for the last month to Oct. 4 and she’s been asking my Alexa ‘How many days?’ for a week and a half now,” she said. “Anything they can do with the dogs is exciting for them. It’s still something they’re getting that’s faith-based that I want them to get, but they enjoy as well.”