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‘Devotions with Daisy’: priest spreads joy, glorifies God

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St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Spiritual joy arises from purity of the heart and perseverance in prayer.”

A priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, hopes to offer spiritual joy through his blog “Devotions with Daisy” by imitating St. Francis’ love for God’s creation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown of 2020, Father Allan Phan of Sacred Heart Church/St. James Parish in Crete, Nebraska, began creating daily online reflections to offer spiritual nourishment for parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Seward, where he was serving at the time. After a while of making the videos on his own, he had the inspiration to introduce his pet goldendoodle, Daisy, into his reflections.

“I figured introducing Daisy would be a better attention-getter than my face,” Phan joked about the addition.

He also thought that during a time of stress and anxiety, a puppy would bring a smile to people’s faces. Parishioners would tell him they loved his “devotions with Daisy,” which is where the name for his reflections came from.

Phan reflected, “I most definitely did not think many people would watch it, let alone enjoy it! It’s been wild seeing how many people recognize Daisy or will stop me and ask, ‘Are you the priest that prays with their dog?’”

Diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2019, Phan first got Daisy to help him get through his chemo-radiation treatment, and she continues to bring him joy when he feels poorly health-wise.

“I pray with Daisy before letting her eat her meals and every single time I feel a joy in my heart to turn to God alongside his creation. She also does a great job at keeping me from being lazy by taking night walks with her! I enjoy the walks because it’s a reminder to see and receive God’s love through all he has created, literally for his children to enjoy.”

After he was reassigned to his new parish in Crete, Phan stopped making the reflections but eventually brought them back in response to popular demand and after months of discernment.

“I think a charism I have is encouragement, so when making these videos, I wanted to bring encouragement, joy, and hope to everyone. I want to help people deepen their relationship with God, especially through day-to-day life experiences, even despite our ‘failures’ and dryness,” he said.

“Devotions with Daisy” has borne many fruits for viewers and Phan himself, especially by providing positivity in the midst of the negativity of social media.

Katie Ostgren, director of development and stewardship for the Diocese of Lincoln, said, “It’s a creative use of things lots of people love — cute dogs and social media — in evangelization. It’s truly missionary in that it’s meeting people where they are. Phan takes something lots of people can relate to — owning, training, and caring for a dog — and helps them use that experience to encounter Jesus. The culture is starving for that.”

Some parents have shared with Phan that their children tried to teach their own dogs how to pray after watching “Devotions with Daisy.”

Southern Nebraska Register
Southern Nebraska Register

For Phan, “Devotions with Daisy” has helped him spiritually because it forces him to think outside the box using day-to-day experiences to help people pray.

“In doing so, it stretches my own heart and helps me seek ways to grow in intimacy with the Lord … I just give God praise and gratitude that he could reach the hearts of others through a heart like mine.”

Phan also said he is open to suggestions on how to improve, how to better help people, or any topics that he might incorporate into “Devotions with Daisy.”

Devotions with Daisy can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/ DevotionsWithDaisy.

This article first appeared in the Southern Nebraska Register and has been adapted for republication with permission.

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‘Devotions with Daisy’: priest spreads joy, glorifies God