HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - God's 4-legged critters, large and small visited Mary Mother of God RC Church early Sunday afternoon for the annual Blessing of the Animals, which commemorates the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment.

Pets and their owners gathered outside the church to be sprinkled with holy water by Deacon Chris Conroy.

St. Francis was born in the 12th century, lived in Italy and founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis for men and women not able to live the lives of itinerant preachers, according to Father John Rozembaigier, pastor of Mary Mother of God, located at157 South Triangle Road..

Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history. He is remembered for his generosity to the poor, his willingness to minister to the lepers and for his love for animals and nature, the pastor added.