Children’s Formation — Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Sundays, 9:15 AM
What is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a spiritual formation experience for children ages 3-12, a space of prayer, contemplation, and enjoyment of God. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, is the teacher of all of His sheep, and CGS seeks to walk alongside children in their existing relationship with the Good Shepherd as it grows and deepens.
CGS draws heavily on the work of Maria Montessori, a pioneer of children’s education that is based on creating an environment and materials through which one can encourage a child’s independent learning. Following Montessori’s work and drawing it into the religious life of the child, Sofia Cavalletti, Gianna Gobbi, and others created Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. CGS uses Montessori styles of learning through tactile, child-sized materials to deepen children’s preexisting life with God by lifting up particular historical events (the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Last Supper), parables (the Good Shepherd, the Found Sheep, the Pearl of Great Price), and liturgical materials (colors, calendars, articles of the Holy Eucharist and Baptism) so that children are able to deepen their participation in the church’s life and worship.
At Holy Spirit, we believe that the child is already deep in relationship with God: called, known and loved by the Good Shepherd. CGS provides a beautiful, unique way to invite the child deeper into that preexisting relationship and create a space in which the Holy Spirit can speak directly to the child through their own works of prayer. CGS is also a naturally and beautifully inclusive program, where the focus is not on getting all children to memorize particular content or be able to articulate back particular ideas, but instead to watch and observe how the children interact with the environment and invite them further in as we observe they are ready. CGS moves at the pace of each child’s spiritual life, slowing us all down enough to open and enjoy the gifts that God is giving each of us at that particular moment. CGS challenges adults and children alike to slow down and wonder at the mystery of God’s presence in our lives.
Some Common Vocabulary for CGS:
Atrium: CGS takes place in an atrium, a room specially named to designate it as a place of prayer. An atrium is a quietly lit, calm and joyful space in which the children, catechists and volunteers listen to God together.
Works/Materials: In CGS, we refer to a specific material as a work to signify that the children are engaging in a deep, joyful way in the atrium. Works are often placed on a small tray that the child can reach down for him or herself and work with it independently, and all are sized so that a child can work with it independently of the catechist. We avoid using words like “crafts,” “play” or “activity,” not because these are bad, but because we have an opportunity through our language with the children to convey how we see them doing real, profound works of prayer.
Catechist: A catechist is an adult who has been (or is being) formed through a CGS spiritual formation leader to be able to present works to children and work alongside them in the Atrium. We do not see ourselves as teachers, for the only teacher of the children and of the catechist is Christ. Instead, we walk alongside the children and listen to God together.
Practical Life: You might hear us refer to practical life as a space in the atrium for a specific kind of work. This type of work, also found in Montessori classrooms, is focused on developing children’s fine- and gross-motor skills, patience, attention to detail, and enjoyment. It also helps to prepare them for more complex tasks. For example, in our practical life area we have a dry pouring work, where the child learns to pour dried beans from one jar to another. When they have mastered this skill they can learn to pour liquid, in equal amounts first, then in unequal amounts. Eventually, children are able to pour in a way that enables them to serve at the Altar as acolytes or subdeacons and help to prepare the elements for Holy Eucharist.
Interested in being involved?
If you’d like to observe on a Sunday or become a CGS volunteer, please contact Hannah Evans or Hilary Yancey. Certification in CGS is not required to volunteer in the atrium. If you’re interested in being CGS certified, please contact Preston Yancey to discern whether CGS certification is the right next step in your spiritual formation.
All our catechists, teachers, aids, and nursery workers are certified in Safeguarding God’s Children, a program that includes an extenstive background check and training in proper conduct with children. Conduct includes a requirement for two unrelated safeguarded adults to be present in a children’s classroom at all times and proper procedures for interaction with children. To learn more about Safeguarding, please click here.