Shetlands, shih tzus and sheep unite for sacred rite

Tatachilla Lutheran College is set apart by its vibrant Lutheran culture that values family life and shared celebrations.

One such celebration is the Blessing of the Animals ceremony, which sees more than 400 domestic pets and beloved animals from local farms descend on college grounds to receive a blessing from the college pastor.

It’s the biggest such event on the Fleurieu Peninsula, and one that gives the Tatachilla community the opportunity to give thanks for the important role that animals play in our lives.

It’s also a way of celebrating a shared college passion and having enormous fun in the process.

A cherished yearly custom – undertaken in remembrance of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of all creatures great and small – the Blessing of the Animals ceremony gives all Tatachilla families the chance to celebrate the diversity of God’s creatures in a fun and light-hearted setting.

The college’s most recent Blessing included three horses, several cows, a sheep, a hermit crab and the college’s first white dove. This was in addition to the college’s usual pilgrimage of cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and budgies.

Tatachilla’s college pastor, Jon Goessling, said: “The annual Blessing of the Animals event at Tatachilla has become an unwitting gateway for students to see God in nature, with animals acting as the language of love and community. There is nothing so intuitive and profound as the love we have for the animals in our lives: it is Godly and transformative.”

Pastor Jon Goessling introduced this sacred and beloved custom to the cultural life of the college ten years ago. At the time, the event attracted 30 animals, including an alpaca.

This year’s event further cemented the Blessing as a major highlight in the college calendar.

During the 2023 ceremony, families were entertained by the talented bluegrass duo Miss Ohio (comprising Mae Traeger and Gage Stead), who sang the animals through the blessing ritual and gave the event an old-time gospel vibe.

The college also hosted The Farm Barn in Hahndorf, who set up a small petting zoo on the college oval and enabled our students to engage with a range of baby farmyard animals throughout the morning. The petting zoo was a particular hit with Tatachilla’s senior students who fed the baby cows until the bell went.

Events such as these not only bring the college community together, but they also create shared memories from which spontaneous connections and new friendships are born.

It’s just one of the ways that Tatachills approaches college culture differently, highlighting the commonality between us in a positive, life-affirming way.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France

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