Discovering and Learning with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
For the Kindergarten and 1st grade students at SJCS, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) program opens new opportunities, both spiritual and developmental. As the children line up outside a special child-sized room called the Atrium once a week, they are excited by the freedom to search the shelves for meaningful work. They gather in the prayer corner and remember the ways in which Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has called them by name and has revealed himself to each of them. They take a moment to remember the liturgical season and color. As they break for their work period, they are drawn to the many catechetical materials such as a diorama of the upper room where Jesus had his last supper, or a puzzle map of Jerusalem to give historical context for Jesus’ last days on Earth. These Pascal meditations are always punctuated by a declaration of His great act of rising again at Easter. Over the course of the year, they hear and discuss essential scriptures about Jesus’s infancy and passion, and His teachings through parables. Many children choose to create artwork or make a flower arrangement to beautify the Atrium. Others set the model altar with a small brass chalice and paten, one of the ways the children are drawn into the Mass. When their work has ended, they have an invitation to speak to Jesus during communal prayer and song. These rituals are simple, yet often the children share profound feelings for and understandings of their loving God.
On walking through one of these Atrium sessions, one might notice the influence of Maria Montessori. In fact, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd began in Rome in 1954 by her close friend, Gianna Gobbi and a biblical scholar, Sophia Cavaletti. It has evolved over decades and is a multi-national ministry. This beautiful program involves a deep respect for a child’s spiritual nature and trusts the child to choose work by which he or she can develop self-control, vocabulary, prayer life, working and praying in a community, and most importantly a personal relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The children know Him as a God who cares for all their needs and lays down His life for them. The product of this special time in the Atrium is joy and contemplation.
Our Atrium is organized by Mrs. Paula Burrows who is a trained catechist in Level 1 and Level 2 of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. We are grateful for her dedication to this beautiful program that benefits our youngest students!