A small dog reacts while being blessed with holy water as people and animals participate in the annual Blessing of the Animals in front of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen on Sunday. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

McALLEN — Just outside Sacred Heart Church, under a tent providing shade from the Valley sun, Father Jesus Paredes waited.

As the car pulled up near the tent, Paredes approached the passenger window, holding an aspergillum, ready to bless whoever was on the passenger seat.

Just rolled halfway, a dog’s head pops out the window. As Paredes gave a prayer in Spanish, the dog growled for a few seconds.

After he sprinkled holy water on the dog, Paredes joked, “You need an exorcism,” and was met with laughter from the individuals in the vehicle, Deacon Carlos Aguilar and the volunteers who joined him for the annual Blessing of the Animals.

The annual Blessing of the Animals is a tradition held every year on Oct. 4 in memory and honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, who Paredes mentioned loved God, nature and creation.

Also known as St. Francis’ feast day, the Blessing of the Animals was held through a “curbside blessing” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All individuals needed to do was pull up in front of the church and Paredes would approach the car to provide a prayer for the pet, followed by the sprinkling of holy water.

From dogs to cats, Paredes said others have brought other pets such as turtles. He even spoke of a time when someone wanted to bring a horse.

Catholic priest Jesus Paredes sprinkles holy water onto the head of a small dog named Han, held by Sara De Leon as people and animals participate in the annual Blessing of the Animals in front of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen on Sunday. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Funny enough, Coco the turtle stopped by later with their owners and fellow family member Pinky, a Chihuahua, to be blessed by Paredes.

Although the purpose was to bless any pets that were brought, some individuals who stopped by were also blessed by Paredes. Some stopped by to donate to the church.

By 1 p.m., the event came to an end.

Ultimately, Paredes explained the Blessing of the Animals was an opportunity for people to come together during these times.

His message rang true as every single car that left, after their animals were blessed, the parishioners left with laughter and smiles.