8 November 2013, Franciscan Priests from the church of St Mary of the Angels were invited to bless Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary (NANAS) in Johor Bahru.
The sanctuary came about through Mr Raymund Wee, a catholic whose vision was to give hope to abandoned and abused animals. He started to build this special place in Singapore in 1995.
However, in the year 2000, the tender for the renewed lease of land at Jalan Kayu was unsuccessful. The ark was relocated to Malaysia and is home to 600 dogs, 300 cats, 9 horses, 4 monkeys and 9 rabbits that have been rescued.
The blessing of animals at the church of St Mary of the Angels has a rich 10 year history according to Franciscans priests, Fr John-Paul Tan (OFM, JCL, Chancellor) and Fr John Derrick Yap (OFM). The yearly tradition coincides with the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology and animals.
|Darren (left) introducing Huggy Boy a gibbon to Fr John-Paul|
|Fr Derrick blessing the cats.|
The priests were on hand to lead in the first official blessing of the animals at the sanctuary together with Catholic parishioners from Singapore.
|Raymund checking on Chun Doong's teeth|
Mr Raymund Wee, founder of Noah's Ark says, “The blessing is a good eye-opener and it shows that people still care for animals.” Adding on he says with a laugh, “The purpose is to bless the animals so that they can forgive the humans for their wrong-doings to them.”
Being true animal lovers, Fr John-Paul believes that, “The animals are very lucky to have such a place.” At Noah's Ark, the animals are free to roam the sanctuary and food, water and medical treatments are provided for them. Fr Derrick added that, “It is amazing to see the close relationships that the animals enjoy with each other, even the three-legged ones.” However, most animals at Noah's Ark have troubled pasts where they are subjected to cruelty. Fr John-Paul says, “ Having an animal is a stewardship, if you can’t take care of it, pass it on to someone else who will continue to care for it.”
Animals are also referenced in the bible such as the book of Genesis and the story of Noah’s Ark. The Christian significance of the blessing is to remind people to always respect, love and care for animals.
|Fr Derrick with Cinzano, ex dressage horse.|
Fr Derrick stressed that St Francis of Assisi, believed in a common fatherhood, where all creation are brothers and sisters. All creation is to bless God together. The Christian message of the blessing serves as a reminder for Christians to love God’s unique creation.
Ms Linda Shaw, a parishioner from the church of St. Ignatius says, “The blessing was a wonderful experience and has helped us renew our faith as Christians to love animals.” Adding on she says, “We must look after God’s creation.”
|A natural environment for the animals to call home.|
The inspiration behind the name of Noah's Ark came from the bible where Noah was asked to build the ark to house the animals and his family. This was done according to God’s plan to save them from the great flood. Similarly, the ark was built with the purpose to help animals in need and protect them from harm.
|Rosina giving Snoopy a pat.|
Ms Rosina Maria Arquati, an animal communicator who is vegan, a catholic and attends the church of St. Joseph (Hong Kong) remarks, “It is an uplifting, inspiring and calming spiritual experience to see the animals being blessed.” Adding on she says, “In the bible, God gave us domain over the animals, it shows that God trusts us with them.” Therefore we have the utmost responsibility to care for the animals.
|Oso a GR Retriever showing off to our visitors that he can swimm.|
|Cats watching the dogs swim at their balcony.|
Mr Raymund Wee also shares that he relies on a Christian song, “One Day at a time, Sweet Jesus”, which is written by the late Patsy Cline to get him through the trials and tribulations that he faces in running the sanctuary. The meaningful lyrics of the song he shares is to live one day at a time, pray consistently and to ask for God’s continued grace and strength to help him, one step at a time.
The beauty of the ark can be seen in the sacrifices where no animal is turned away and are able to have the freedom and shelter they deserve. By respecting God’s creatures great and small, the world would be a better and humane society for us, God’s children to co-exist with God’s creatures. For stories and updates about the ark, please like our page at facebook.com/noahsarkcares.
Written by Darren Chan Keng Leong