Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS – The Atrium) sets the stage and the environment for children ages 3 – 12 so that they’re better able to make the journey from the Head to the Heart. It nurtures wonder and awe and helps the child develop and deepen a relationship with the Holy Trinity. Because CGS follows the Montessori style of learning, beautiful, sensorial materials fill the Atrium space. Every week there is a retreat-type experience, nurturing contemplation and relationship. It’s interesting to note that the youngest children are usually never read New Testament bible stories. The Atrium provides this, and so much more!
- Level I – In the beginning, CGS offers Montessori-based “Practical Life” exercises (polishing brass and leaves, carrying awkward trays, correctly pouring and folding, basic care of the environment, etc.) to help build self-control and independence. CGS uses the actual bible passages (prefacing hard words), accompanied by miniature dioramas, to explore the scriptures. The miniature New Testament dioramas are beautiful and make scripture come alive for the children. Spontaneous prayer is one of the focal points in Level I, as are the Silence Exercises. Important Prayers of the Mass (along with Gestures) are also explored. Beautiful life-like miniature articles of the Mass are also included, along with their names, use and care.
- Level II – The children explore the Lord’s prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Magnificat by breaking the prayers down line by line. They plan the closing prayer service. In Level II they make a Mass missal with some of the key moments and prayers of the Mass.
- Level III – The prayer service is still planned by the children with a commentary on the scripture. Also, in Level III the children identify the parts of the Mass, all the prayers, and propers. They have charts with small clues, and they place all the prayers in the order for the Mass. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is liturgical and follows the church year. The Biblical geography also builds in each level.
How is CGS Methodology Different?
The methodology is that each presentation builds and reinforces previous ones in the Atrium. It is like a tapestry being woven between God, the child, and the adult. It is experiential learning at its finest. Each Catechist receives 90 – 100 hours of training. They are merely a facilitator for the Holy Spirit who guides and Jesus the true teacher.
The Atrium environment is not a classroom like CCD. (Note: CCD – which stands for “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine” – provides education for Catholic children who attend secular schools. It is similar to children’s Sunday school in Protestant churches.) In other words, there are no workbooks, or copied pages to color. I could go on for hours about CGS; there is simply no comparison to CCD. It is very hard to put the CGS experience to words. When you enter they Atrium you will see the differences immediately.
Why volunteer with CGS?
Sacred Heart Parish is greatly blessed to have an Atrium (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) on its premises. Of the more than 17,000 Catholic parishes in the United States, less than 6% offer this exceptional program.
The Atrium experience is remembered and treasured by children as the years go by. This is partly because of the guidance and gentle presence of the adult volunteers. But the Atrium experience benefits the adults as well, for they get to experience God through the eyes and hearts of people so new and young. The image and parable of the Good Shepherd is the key theme of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The children (and adults) are reminded again and again – and in a variety of different ways – that they are loved. Within this powerful and life-affirming “retreat” structure, the adults and children move together through the year.
The Atrium building is located next to the Sacred Heart Youth Center on the Sacred Heart grounds. The weekly sessions follow the school calendar (from mid-August or early September through the second week in May). Each session is up to 2-hours long, depending on the age of the group. Two adults are present, along with an average of eight children, depending on the situation. Adult volunteers usually help with the set-up and clean-up of each class. While Catechist (teacher) volunteers need many hours of training, Catechist-Assistant volunteers need only a few hours to be ready. Their training includes a tour and orientation of the Atrium, followed by a short period of instruction and observation (watching a class in progress). DVDs for newcomers are available to help better explain how the Atrium works. If you are curious, we’d greatly welcome your inquiries!
Please call the CGS office anytime from August through May, at 928.445.3141, ext. 319. Or contact Lisa Baynes at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“I am a believer because my son at age 3.5 entered the Atrium. He would later be diagnosed with dyspraxia. He could not sit still, play quietly, and struggled with fine motor skills. After going to atrium he wanted to play and talk quietly. He would want to sit up front at Mass so he could see Father. It helped him so much developmentally and spiritually. We did not have level III at Sacred Heart yet but he went through levels I and II including sacraments. He is 23 and works for child and family services with troubled youth and their families.”
– Lisa Baynes, Director, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Sacred Heart