National Cathedral hires a new resident mouse chaser

October 26, 2010

WASHINGTON (RNS) The newest employee at Washington National Cathedral
was nowhere to be found in her office on a recent afternoon. She was
probably out and about, staffers said, doing God's work.

"She likes to bring gifts from her adventures," said Jean Jawdat,
the deputy director of the Cathedral Choral Society. "She presents us
with mice."

There are alley cats, lap cats and house cats -- and then there's
Carmina, the only cat who's able to call the House of Prayer for All
People home.

The friendly feline with the black and tortoise-shell fur comes and
goes through her very own customized cat door. She climbs trees, roams
around the courtyard and always returns to the cathedral library for

"She eats a hodgepodge of things," said Victoria Chamberlin, who
works for the Cathedral Choral Society, and the person who's largely in
charge of Carmina's adoption. "She prefers mostly dry food, though we
give her wet food at times to keep her hydrated."

Her official name is Carmina Chante Schumann, and she's called the
landmark church home for nearly a month. The Washington Humane Society
found her and her litter on the city's southeast side, and took her in
until each kitten was adopted into homes.

Carmina, too, was adopted, but her first home didn't work out,
Chamberlin said, and was returned to the shelter. That's when Chamberlin
arrived, looking for a cat of her own to adopt. She found one of
Carmina's kittens, a tomcat named Ren, but when she heard Carmina's
story, she decided she might find a home at the cathedral.

Carmina, who's named after Carl Orff's masterful opera "Carmina
Burana," replaces Catherine of Tarragon, who retired to a home in North
Carolina at age 16 with a bad case of asthma.

Since most of the staffers in the choral office have cats of their
own, they bring in extra food for Carmina. And, in a duty that's
probably not listed in their formal job description, they take turns
cleaning her litter box in the basement.

"Carmina has always had a sweet demeanor," said Sabrina Fang of the
Washington Humane Society, who helped facilitate the adoption.

"She is usually very laid back, lets you pet her," Chamberlin added.
"For a young cat, she has an old temperament."

Since her arrival just before the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi
-- the patron saint of animals, of course -- Carmina has scaled the
walls of the library and likes to climb along the pipes in the office.
She walks gingerly past a plush version of a Catherine of Tarragon doll
that was sold in the cathedral gift shop.

Carmina's already carried out a few liturgical duties -- she was the
first animal blessed at the cathedral's St. Francis celebrations.

"Animals," said the cathedral's director of worship, the Rev.
Gwendolyn Tobias, "become an intersection between people and belief."