Published July 20, 2006
St. Brigid Church is offering to all catechiests of the archdiocese a religious educational training program for the development of children, known as the “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.”
The program takes its name from the well-known parable of the Good Shepherd, which focuses on how God calls each precious sheep by name and gives the sheep all of His time, care and love. The specific curriculum concentrates on helping the child enjoy a deep and loving prayer relationship with God, gaining a relationship of deep peace and enjoying God’s presence in his or her life.
St. Brigid’s will begin the level I catechesis training program in August for its parish catechists and welcomes interested people from other parishes. This Montessori approach to Catholic religious education presents a unique opportunity for children ages 3-6. After training catechists, the church will set the “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd” program in motion for its preschoolers ages 4 to 6 with limited enrollment. The church has plans and procedures in place to help the program grow, making it available to older children in the future.
This internationally recognized curriculum was established in Rome, Italy, in 1954. It was developed by Sofia Cavalletti, a liturgical scholar, and Gianna Gobbi, a Montessorian, who began a collaboration that developed a formation process now known as the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Maria Montessori was a great Italian educator and physician. In the beginning of the 20th century, Montessori began to write consistently about the young child’s love of order, capacity for concentration, desire for work, and his need to connect with his inner sprituality. Today that approach and curriculum has been implemented in centers around the world.
The spiritual environment and established formation process of the catechesis takes place in an “atrium,” a room of simplicity and order. In the atrium, the young child is shown reverence for the enviroment so that, even though everyone in the atrium is occupied and active, an atmosphere of silence filters through the room. The sessions offer preschoolers the time to wonder, pray, listen, sing, rest, work and talk about their faith. Because it is prayerful and quiet in the atrium, children make a joyous discovery of their inner life.
One of the special qualities of the program is that liturgical materials and articles of Mass are meant to be respectfully handled by the children. In the atrium environment, the children independently work around their child-sized furniture with the materials of their choice related to the liturgy, parables, prayer and biblical narratives. Using principles of the Montessori method, the catechesis program assists the children by providing a spiritual environment as they become full and faithful participants in their church communities.
Deacon Leo Gahafer, director of religious education at St. Brigid’s explained that this teaching style is more of a facilitation process.
“It’s a very interactive program. Basically it’s more of a facilitation than teaching. You put the information out there and let the kids get more involved in that,” he said. “The principle behind the Montessori approach is that kids are engaged in learning.”
He said they would like to build on it and offer an annual training series and eventually also certify catechists to teach older children.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training session will take place one weekend per month beginning in August 2006 and ending in April 2007, excluding the month of December, in St. Brigid’s Corbett Hall.
The specialized catechist training workshop will be presented by Elizabeth Piper and Laura Kintz, formation leaders in the implementation and instruction of this method.
Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis with limited class seating. The deadline for registration is Aug. 1.
St. Brigid is located at 3400 Old Alabama Road, Alpharetta.
Adults interested in learning how their parish can bring this spiritual curriculum into the religious educational program or interested in becoming a nationally certified catechist of the Good Shepherd can contact Chris Martineck at firstname.lastname@example.org or (678) 393-0060, ext. 128, or Debbie Mentesana at email@example.com or (678) 393-0060, ext. 127, for schedule, tuition and registration information.