'All Saints' honored at North Reading parish procession

NORTH READING -- The Bigginses of Wilmington make quite the holy family.

For the last three years, Donna Biggins and her husband Stephen have played Mary and Joseph in the nativity pageant at St. Theresa Parish in North Reading.

"St. Joseph is a symbol of unity in the family," Stephen Biggins said, "and I believe that family is most important, especially today when there's so much pressure in the family."

Donna and Stephen Biggins reprised their roles for St. Theresa's first-ever All Saints' Day procession, held on Oct. 30. Their grandson Ryan came dressed as St. Patrick.

"He took away all the snakes from Ireland," said Ryan, 13, "and that was a big thing that he did."

The procession was supposed to be outdoors, but due to inclement weather, it took place inside St. Theresa's. The Bigginses and about 40 other parishioners of all ages donned the garb of their favorite saints and prayed the rosary for peace, led by Father Agustin Anda.

Father Anda explained that the procession was a way for kids to enjoy the Halloween tradition of wearing costumes while also learning about their faith.

"Rather than having children and families dress as monsters," he said, "I think that it's better for them to dress as saints and reflect on the lives of the saints."

Seven-year-old Clara Hannigan said she dressed up as St. Joan of Arc because she likes princesses and warriors. Her five-year-old brother John dressed as St. Pope John Paul II "because he wanted to." He said that he enjoyed being pope, even though his miter kept falling off. Rounding out the saintly siblings was three-year-old Declan, dressed as St. John Bosco.

"It reminds them of the example that the saints set," said their mother, Brittany Hannigan, "and the virtues that they practiced."

Maureen McRae dressed as Mother Teresa. McRae is so devoted to the saint that she plans to have a picture of her on her tombstone.

"I love her," McRae said. "She was so close to Jesus, and she followed him."

"You did her perfectly," McRae's friend Patricia McCabe, who dressed as St. Martha, told her.

Two "saints" carried a statue of the Virgin Mary, which led the procession. When they finished praying the rosary, each "saint" presented themselves before Mary, explaining who they were and saying a final prayer.

"I am Our Lady of Guadalupe," Cathi Lee told Mary. "My photo is on the wall behind the organ, and it is an honor to represent you."

Lee used to be in charge of Vacation Bible School at St. Theresa's. She made the Our Lady of Guadalupe costume herself, for the annual VBS Guadalupe pageant.

"I think it's one of the greatest miracles that Our Lady has done for us," she said. "Knowing that she's Our Lady of the Americas, that's important."

On Halloween, she wore the costume for trick-or-treaters who came to her doorstep.