Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Mrs. Joanie Rymsza, Director
What is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a religious formation experience, based on the educational method of Dr. Maria Montessori, which begins at the age of three. Adult catechists trained in this method offer children a sacred space for work, study, and prayer called an atrium, with plenty of “hands-on” catechetical materials available. Together in this setting, children and their catechists hear, ponder, and celebrate the most essential mysteries of the Catholic faith as revealed in Scripture and the Liturgy. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has been adapted in many settings to serve children of various Christian denominations.
Originally developed in Rome beginning in 1954 by Dr. Sofia Cavalletti (a Hebrew Scripture scholar) and Gianna Gobbi (an assistant to and student of Dr. Maria Montessori), the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd continues to spread worldwide. It has reached a variety of cultures and socioeconomic settings, and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was adopted in 2008 by the Missionaries of Charity (the order of nuns founded by Blessed Teresa of Kolkata) as their primary means of catechesis with the children they serve around the world. In October 2014, over 600 catechists from 22 countries gathered in Phoenix, Arizona, to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Following the cycle of the Church’s liturgical calendar, the children in an atrium, guided by their catechist, explore Christocentric themes, as related to Advent, the Incarnation, the Kingdom of God, the Good Shepherd, and the Paschal Mystery which is found at the heart of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Particular attention is given to the sacraments as events in which we encounter Christ and the mysteries of our faith. The children are invited to independent work with the catechetical materials, in which the Holy Spirit can guide them to a deeper relationship with God.
You can read more about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at www.cgsusa.org.
How Do We Use It?
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was introduced at Christ the King School in the fall of 2005. At the time, two catechists served only the kindergarten class. As those children grew, the atrium and its team of volunteers grew as well. At present, nine catechists, most of whom are volunteers, meet once a week with students in small groups from pre-kindergarten to grade 2. Whenever possible, our catechists are assisted by parent volunteers, which allows school aides to remain in the classrooms and maximize academic productivity while atrium sessions take place. All of our efforts require the support of adult volunteers, specially trained catechists, and parent assistants.
In general, a Level I atrium serves children ages 3 to 6, and a Level II atrium serves children ages 6 to 9. A Level III atrium serves children ages 9 to 12. Christ the King School serves children in two separate environmental set-ups: one each for Level I and II atria. We are currently in the beginning stages of acquiring materials for a Level III atrium. If you would like to observe the children working during an atrium session at Christ the King School, you are welcome to do so. Please contact Joanie Rymsza.
We are always grateful to receive the much-needed gifts of time and talent offered by our generous parishioners and school parents. Our volunteers:
- Supply materials (clean laundry, fresh flowers, paper cut-outs, etc.)
- Make materials at home (sewing, woodworking, painting, calligraphy)
- Help to transition furniture and materials weekly between Level I and Level II sessions
- Serve as assistants to a catechist in the atrium on a weekly basis
- Attend local CGS Formation Courses to become catechists and serve children weekly in the CGS Atrium
If you are interested in helping to provide the experience of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for our children in one or more of these ways, please contact Joanie Rymsza.
Remarks from the Atrium
“Jesus, you’re an awesome guy.” ~ stated with sincerity as his prayer response by a 5-year-old boy in pre-kindergarten, while gathered with his friends at the prayer table
“Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is taught in a way that engages the child’s depth and sense of wonder. It works to enkindle a warmth of knowing God’s love that will foster a life-long love for His Word and the Sacraments.” ~ shared by Tami Raciti, volunteer catechist in the Atrium
“If I saw Jesus on the road [to Calvary] I would hug him so tight!” ~ declared solemnly by an 8-year-old girl in second grade, in response to a presentation of the City of Jerusalem that highlights Jesus’s last days
“He’s such a good man … and a good shepherd!” ~ spoken with love by a 5-year-old girl in the pre-kindergarten as she admired an image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that a fellow student had placed on the prayer table
“I have been very grateful for the blessing of having Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at our school. The coordinator and all the volunteers seem to be doing an exceptional job with this, and my child has enjoyed his time in the Atrium a great deal.” ~ shared by Alison Glenn, active school parent and volunteer
“We are one, like Him.” ~ concluded by an 8-year-old boy in second grade, while reflecting on the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist to all peoples of the world
“It doesn’t matter what we see other people doing. We can still do the right thing.” ~ asserted by an 8-year-old girl in second grade as the thing Jesus wants us to know through the Parable of the Good Samaritan after she received that presentation in the Atrium
“I want to get a job here when I grow up so I can keep learning about Jesus.” ~ offered spontaneously by a 5-year-old boy in prekindergarten after he received a catechetical presentation in the Atrium