At Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Mary Parishes in Somersworth, New Hampshire, children and adults gather in the woods for All Saints' Trick-or-Treat, a unique Catholic event in celebration of All Saints' Day.
The parish invites about 50 people to dress up as saints on an evening before All Saints' Day. Forming a maze in the woods, each saint stands next to a Tiki Torch, presents a mini-talk about each saint, and distributes candy. Participants then guess the saint and can win prizes.
Father Andrew Nelson, pastor of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Mary Parishes, told ChurchPOP the event began four years ago as a way for all parishioners to take part in All Saints' festivities. Leading up to the event, parishioners donate hundreds of pounds of candy. Teens and adults participate as "Saint Presenters," and both kids and adults can "come and test their knowledge of the saints."
"It has been beautiful to watch kids' faces light [up] when they visit their patron saint!" Father Nelson said. "They get excited about their saint, or get excited for their friends at school when they learn about their saints too!"
Parishioner Elise Chabot said the event is "a great catechetical opportunity for parishioners of all ages to learn about the lives of the saints and celebrate their legacy."
"It's a wonderful opportunity to grow in knowledge of the holy men and women who have come before us," she said. "The kids love getting their photos taken with their favorite Saints, and of course earning treats!"
Father Nelson said several parishioners take part in the event every year as presenters. For example, the local fire chief dresses up as Saint Florian, the patron saint of firefighters. An elderly woman in her 90s also dresses up as Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
"Every year she insists on being Our Lady of Perpetual Help because Our Lady helped her in her hour of need," he said. "When she was a baby, she was cared for at a Catholic orphanage and adopted out through Catholic Charities. She shares her story with the kids."
Father Nelson added that "it's fun" when a child dressed as a saint comes across an adult presenter also dressed as the same saint.
"One of my favorites this year was when a little girl dressed as Our Lady of Guadalupe had her picture with our volunteer," Father Nelson said. "She was so proud and excited!"
Father Nelson also said a special needs woman in a wheelchair dressed as Saint Margaret of Castello, the patron saint of the disabled.
"The joy in her face was so beautiful, as she was able to not only take part in the fun but also help!" he said.
The pastor said the event improves each year and "brings the faith alive."
"Trick-or-treating with the saints is truly one of the most beautiful things we do each year. It brings faith alive in the hearts and before the eyes of not only our kids, but our entire parish."