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All Hallows Eve: Bonfire and Blessing

By | Fall | Posted on August 11, 2015

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All Hallows Eve: Bonfire and Blessing

Description: This autumn bonfire captures the faith-filled dimensions of the Halloween season with a mass (or prayer service), food (ideally potluck), and fellowship (with thought-provoking conversation).

Get Ready

  • Prep Time: Depending on marketing and the extent of the program, the prep time for planning this event can be anywhere from one to three months before the scheduled event. On the day of the event, some prep time will be required in advance of the event.
  • Volunteers Needed: In the months leading up to the event, the larger the team, the greater the potential attendance might be. However, this can all be accomplished by as little as two or three volunteers, though about seven to eight volunteers are ideal. The event staff or volunteers would take on the following tasks:
    • marketing and publicizing (via social media, traditional outreach, etc.)
    • greeters (welcome people at door, usher/direct people to next part)
    • prayer arrangements (i.e. order of service, presider, readers, music)
    • prayer set-up (set out liturgical supplies, programs, turn on lights)
    • bonfire set-up (arrange outside space, ignite fire, supply wood)
    • conversation set-up (arrange speaker/facilitator, icebreakers)
    • food/drink set-up (cook/coordinate food items, set out supplies)
    • event clean-up crew (for prayer space, food space, and bonfire space)
  • Ideal Group Size: 20-60
  • Ideal Time for this Event: This event is best held at night, after dark, and as close to Halloween as possible; most definitely, it should be done sometime in the month of October. The event can be done on the night of the holiday itself (and marketed as an “Alternative Halloween Experience” for young adults in the community), or during the weekend immediately preceding October 31. If it is held on Halloween night, consider having a Vigil Mass for All Saints Day as the prayer portion of the program.
  • Who is this for? This event is appropriate for all young adults.
  • Supplies Needed: candles; liturgical supplies based on order of service (and especially for mass: sacred vessels, lectionary, missal); wood and igniter for bonfire; plates, napkins, cups, drinks, and some food dishes (less necessary if doing potluck); s’mores fixings (chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, twigs/sticks)
  • Reserve the Space: The ideal setting would be a parish with a chapel or church that can be used for the prayer service, an area for the food to be served and/or eaten, and an outdoor area to be used for the bonfire. Variations on this could include hosting the prayer service outdoors or instead of a bonfire, use an indoor s’mores maker or fireplace.
  • Publicize the Program:Like many other young adult ministry programs, the best course of marketing and publicity for this event will involve:
    • Traditional parish communications: bulletin, pulpit announcements, posters and flyers around the parish, handouts at the back of the church, etc.
    • Digital marketing via Facebook, Twitter, and an event website (or more effectively, a Facebook event page).
    • E-mail communication to young adults in the parish community, or who have come to previous activities; in addition to this, encourage “regulars” to bring along their friends, especially those detached from the practice of the faith.
    • Put up flyers around the local community, in favorite coffee shops and stores.
    • Put up flyers at and collaborate with area Halloween costume shops, Hallmark-type stores, local corn mazes and pumpkin farms, and other businesses that are popular in autumn and in advance of Halloween.
    • Send out a press release to the local newspapers, with a “pitch” that this is a Catholic perspective on Halloween; it might get picked up as a unique approach to the season, apart from the traditional Halloween news stories.
    • Collaborate with other parish ministries such as Adult Faith Formation, Marriage and Baptism Prep Ministries, Welcome Ministries, RCIA, among other groups in the parish that intersect with young adults.
    • Collaborate with other local parishes, the diocese, and other Christian churches who might welcome a creative idea at this time of year.

Tip: Promotion for this event should begin in September, when people are thinking about Halloween, and get more intense in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

Prayer for Program Planner: Almighty God, creator of the universe and lord of the harvest, be with us as we plan this special evening for young adults. Help us to grow closer to You through the saints and souls who have gone before us. Give us courage to face our fears and hope through the darkness. Strengthen us for the mission that You have called us to this night — to reach out to those in their 20s and 30s, sharing with them the Good News of Christ Jesus Your Son. In His name we pray. Amen.

Community Building: Because this program includes time for food and fellowship around the bonfire, the event will lend itself to good community building among the participants. To further enhance the social aspects, the following ideas can be added to the program:

  • Invite young adults to dress up in Halloween costumes
  • Have opportunities for bobbing for apples or other games/icebreakers
  • Invite young adults to bring a dish for a potluck (in particular, they can also bring their favorite Halloween candy or harvest-time food)
  • Share stories (scary stories, Halloween memories, etc.) around the bonfire

About the Author

Paul Jarzembowski

Paul Jarzembowski is the Program Coordinator of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Paul has served for over seven years at the helm of the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA), which networks, trains, and resources church leaders across the country in the field of young adult ministry. He has been a contributing author to several books, blogs, and publications including The Next Generation of Pastoral Leaders (Loyola Press, 2010) and Young and Catholic in America (Paulist Press, 2010). He has been a contributing author to several books, blogs, and publications including The Next Generation of Pastoral Leaders (Loyola Press, 2010) and Young and Catholic in America (Paulist Press, 2010). He is a regular columnist and film reviewer for Faith Catholic. He received his M.A. in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University Chicago and is married and lives in the greater Chicago area.