Faith, Hope & Charity Keep the Church Tidy
Perhaps a common sight in South Africa, sheep are definitely not native to bustling New York City, where an enterprising priest has taken on three to help keep the grounds of his church tidy.
For the third straight year, a historic New York City church has imported three sheep from a farm to serve as organic lawn mowers in its two-century-old cemetery. The woolly visitors graze on grass and weeds growing in between and around the weather-eroded headstones and obelisks in the north graveyard of the basilica of St Patrick’s old cathedral, a structure dedicated in 1815 and located in the Lower Manhattan neighbourhood of Nolita, for “North of Little Italy”.
The sheep arrived following a 140km ride in a pickup truck from a fibre farm in New Paltz, where the owner breeds Cormo Sheep exclusively for the high-quality fleece sought by knitters.
In New York they roam on a half-acre plot of land that contains the graves of Civil War heroes, aristocrats and other citizens of 19th-century New York. Mgr Donald Sakano, St Patrick’s parish priest said that the idea of bringing sheep to the cemetery was initiated in 2014.
“It started with a conversation I had with a groundskeeper who was planning to retire,” Mgr Sakano recalled. “I joked: ‘What do you expect me to do now, get sheep?’ The second I said it I thought, ‘That might be a good idea,’ even though I knew nothing about sheep-keeping here in New York City.”
The first sheep arrived and were subsequently named Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
In addition to helping maintain the grounds of the only Catholic cemetery in the borough of Manhattan, the sheep are a “good catechetical tool” for the parish, said Mgr Sakano.
“It is the most referenced animal in the Bible,” he said, citing several examples, including the use of lambs for animal sacrifice, the “Lord is my shepherd” psalm, and the metaphor of Christ as the lamb of God.
This year’s sheep have been named Faith, Hope and Charity.
The sheep are a popular neighbourhood attraction, drawing the attention of hundreds of adults and children each day, who stop, stare and snap photos. An innocent bleat will bring smiles to the faces of spectators of all ages.—CNS