Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach to the religious formation of children 3 to 12 years of age. It is an encounter which involves children and adults in a common religious experience, announcing God’s love in the person of the Good Shepherd, who died and is risen! The primary purpose of the Good Shepherd experience is to help children know and enjoy God. It is not head knowledge but heart knowledge. It is not to teach a lot of things about God, but rather, to teach them to develop a relationship with God. It helps the child to “come closer to God … all by myself.”
What is the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS)?
This is an approach to the religious formation of children 3 to 12 years of age. It is an encounter which involves children and adults in a common religious experience, announcing God’s love in the person of the Good Shepherd, who died and is risen.
What is the purpose of CGS?
The primary purpose of the Good Shepherd experience is to help children know and enjoy God. It is not head knowledge but heart knowledge. It is not to teach a lot of things about God, but rather, to teach them to develop a relationship with God.
Where does the CGS take place? A special room called the Atrium is currently located in the primary building on the elementary campus. This room is a place for religious life, community and worship. It is a place of work which becomes conversation with God. The Atrium is a place of preparation for involvement in the larger worshiping community.
How does this religious formation take place?
The Atrium is a place of quiet time to learn the skills of concentration and contemplation. The materials in the Atrium are attractively displayed inviting children to explore and deepen experience at their own rhythm. The most important characteristic of the materials is their close link to the biblical and liturgical sources. For example, the shelves may include miniature environments representing the elements of the parables and historical events from Scripture that have been shown to satisfy the spiritual needs of the child.
What is the philosophy of this religious education experience?
We believe that God and the child have a unique relationship with one another, particularly before the age of six.
We believe that children need their own place to foster the growth of that relationship.
We believe that the growth of this relationship should be assisted by the adult, but is directed by the Spirit of God within the child.
We believe that the child’s spiritual growth is best served through tangible but indirect means.
What are some of the concepts the children will encounter in the Atrium?
The children will become partners in the covenant with God by being in relationship with God. Some of the ideas shared in the CGS include:
- The Life of Christ: The children will learn about the historical events of the life of Jesus, including the infancy narratives, the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They will encounter presentations on the preaching of Jesus and the images of Christ as Good Shepherd, Christ the Light and the True Vine.
- Liturgy: The children will explore the biblical message lived in the liturgical experience of the church through prayer and celebration.
- Baptism: In Baptism, we receive the gift of Jesus’ Risen life. The baptismal light and white garments are signs we will discover.
- Eucharist: The actions and words of the Mass help us to learn about the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep.
- Reconciliation: This is presented to older children through the signs and works of the sacrament.
When is the CGS in session?
The Atrium is open to the all first grade and second grade students at the elementary. Lessons for the third grade are currently being developed.
Who will work with the children in the Atrium?
Catechists who have been trained in facilitating the work of the Atrium have the following responsibilities:
- to prepare the environment
- to maintain the environment
- to read and study scripture
- to offer the scripture with its accompanying materials as methods of meditation for the child
- To honor the child and her/his relationship with God by getting out of the way; to let the child meditate and encounter God all by her/himself The catechist is to respond to the hunger of the child who says: “Help me to draw closer to God all by myself. Help me to be fully alive!”
Who has been trained in the CGS?
Currently, Colleen Bernhardt and Valerie French are trained catechists in Level I of the Good Shepherd program. They work under the direction of Mrs. Cindy McLaughlin to present Level II activities.
Is this a new program?
No, CGS was started in 1954 by Hebrew scholar and theologian Sofia Cavalletti, and Gianna Gobbi. With the help of Marie Montessori, Sophia developed a method that focused on the essential things, the big truths. This method allows the mystery of God and the Kingdom of God to be encountered, explored, and the face of God is sought. There is no learned response in order to satisfy the teacher because the catechist and the child are co-learners in this search for God.
How can I find out more about this experience?
You can contact Valerie French at the Elementary (419-668-6091) or the National center for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at 708-524-1210 or at www.cgsusa.org .
How can you help?
Do you have a talent to share? We are in need of wood workers, painters and seamstresses. Monetary donations are helpful in purchasing materials for the children to use. Also, please pray for the children and their catechists.