Published July 19, 2007
St. Brigid Church is offering to all catechists of the archdiocese the opportunity to participate in a training program for the religious formation of children, known as the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS). The program will begin the weekend of Aug. 24-25.
According to the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the program “is an approach … that is rooted in the Bible, the liturgy of the church, and the educational principles of Maria Montessori.”
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. Specifically, the curriculum concentrates on helping children enjoy a deep and loving prayer relationship with God, gaining a relationship of deep peace and enjoying God’s presence in their lives. In this type of catechesis, children gather in an “atrium,” a room prepared for them that contains simple yet beautiful educational materials that they use. This Montessori approach to Catholic religious education presents a unique opportunity for children ages 3-6.
Melissa Tilly, a parishioner and Good Shepherd catechist at St. Jude Church, Sandy Springs, where CGS is also offered, said, “When I was approached to take the catechist training, I wasn’t sure that I could sacrifice the time since I had two small children at home and wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. Luckily, it turned out to be a very spiritual experience for me, and I learned to look forward to my training weekends for the meditative atmosphere and fascinating subject matter … I’ve taken many Bible study courses and never received as much enlightenment and hope as I did from my catechist formation course.”
This internationally recognized curriculum, established in Rome, Italy, in 1954, was developed by Sofia Cavaletti, a liturgical scholar, and Gianna Gobbi, a Montessorian. They began a collaboration that developed a formation process now known as the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. In the beginning of the 20th century, Maria Montessori, an Italian educator and physician, began to write consistently about the young child’s love of order, capacity for concentration, desire for work, and the need to connect with his or her inner spirituality. Today that approach and curriculum have been implemented in centers around the world.
In 2006-2007, St. Brigid hosted its first CGS training. From this diverse gathering of 20 people, which included home-schooling moms, people of other Christian faiths, catechists, a doctor, and several people who felt called to be there “but not sure why,” came a unique opportunity. A mission trip to Mustard Seed Communities in Jamaica was organized with the intent to observe and evaluate the educational system and to develop plans for improvements. Mustard Seed Communities house and provide for the needs of abandoned children who are severely disabled or have HIV. Several members from the St. Brigid training went on this trip.
Father Gregory Ramkissoon, the founder of Mustard Seed Communities worldwide, asked this group to introduce CGS to the adult community, as well as to the children. As a result of that April trip, an intense, weeklong CGS training was held in July and a subsequent training is planned for the summer of 2008.
Elizabeth Piper, CGS trainer, said, “As a catechist, I enjoy experiencing my faith through the eyes of the children, and these children have incredible faith that needs a place to grow and flourish.”
The level 1 CGS training will take place at St. Brigid one weekend a month beginning Friday to Saturday, Aug. 24-25, and ending in April 2008, excluding the month of December. Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis with limited class seating. The deadline for registration is Aug. 15.
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 Debbie Mentesana at email@example.com or Daisy Davidow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (678) 393-0060, ext. 127 or ext. 128, respectively, for schedule, tuition and registration information.
For more information about the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, go to www.cgsusa.org.