” The Bible finds its fullness in the listening of the community that lives in justice and builds itself in the Eucharistic celebration. Therefore, the child who comes to know the Good Shepherd should be initiated into the greatest action in which we meet Him: the Mass.” Sofia Cavalletti
The parish is, without doubt, the most important locus in which the Christian community is formed and expressed. This is called to be a fraternal and welcoming family where Christians become aware of being the people of God. In the parish, all human differences melt away and are absorbed into the universality of the Church. The parish is also the usual place in which the faith is born and in which it grows. It constitutes, therefore, a very adequate community space for the realization of the ministry of the word at once as teaching, education, and life experience. Today, the parish is undergoing profound transformation… Social changes are having repercussions on the parish … Despite this, “the parish is still a major point of reference for the Christian people, even for the non-practicing.” It must however, continue ” to be the prime mover and pre-eminent place for catechesis.” GDC 257
A Place Prepared
In the early Church, the faithful were prepared for initiation into the life of the Church in a place prepared for the spiritual life. They called this place the “atrium.” Just so, when children are prepared for the participation in the church community the place should prepared to help children pray. If our aim is to help children enjoy relationship with God we must ask, “What kind of environment can we create that will respect and cultivate the child’s needs and capacities at their particular level of their development, especially in terms of their spiritual development?” In a traditional classroom, primary relationship thought to be between teacher and child. There is however, a third important, but often silent partner in education: the environment. This environment does not have to remain invisible partner, but rather can be intentionally shaped. This proper environment for religious formation is not a classroom, not a place of religious instruction, but of conversion. Upon entering the environment, one should see child-sized furniture, fine religious art hung at child eye-level, and representations of Scripture that can be seen, touched, and moved around. It should be a place of spiritual retreat for children. A place of work, study, and prayer, where work and study become contemplation of God, and prayer. Many parishes find themselves using rooms for varied purposes so every attempt is to be made to create a proper space for the religious formation of their children with careful consideration, creative ingenuity, and good stewardship.
by Sofia Cavalletti
by Gianna Gobbi, Translated by Rebekah Rojcewicz
by Ann M. Garrido
by Tina Lillig
Sample Bulletin Announcements
[Parish Name Here] will be offering The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd method of faith formation for the three to six-year-old children of our parish beginning in the fall of (insert date). The catechists who work with the children will participate in nearly 100 hours of formation and will prepare a special environment for the children, which is called the Atrium.
Please join us in praying for the those who are called to this ministry.
To learn more about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at [Parish Name Here] please contact (local contact) or www.CGSUSA.org.
[Parish Name Here] will host a “Seed Planting” for parents, grandparents, potential catechists and all those who are interested in learning more about this new ministry that will be established in our community. The Seed Planting will be held on (insert date and time, and location). To learn more about the Seed Planting, The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at [Parish Name Here] please contact (local contact).
The Young Child and Prayer
How can we assist the prayer life of the young child? How is the prayer of the young child different than the prayer of the adult? What role does silence, movement, and language play in the prayer life of the child? Join us on (date, time, location) to know more about the Young Child and Prayer. For more information, contact (local contact information).
Proclaiming Scripture with Children
How do we break open the Word with the children in our family or within our parish community? How will they respond? What do I say? Join us on (date, time, location) to know more about this most precious book and how we share it with our children. For more information, contact (local contact information).
Would you like to help your child enjoy a deeper relationship with God? The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a Montessori-based approach to the religious formation of children, rooted in Sacred Scripture, Liturgy, and respect for the child’s rich relationship with God. To learn more about the spiritual life of the child, contact (local contact information).
Atrium Open House
Join us on (date, time) for a open house / tour of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Atrium. Our catechists will be happy to share with you the materials that have allowed our young people to fall in love with Jesus and his Church.
The Atrium (week 1)
Why is it called “Atrium” anyway? The word “atrium” actually means “portico, or porch entrance to a large house.” The Atrium was a term given to this space by Maria Montessori. It was chosen because in the ancient church, the atrium was a gathering space between the Church Proper and the street. It was the place where the catechumens, those preparing for initiation to the Church, would receive instruction. The Atrium has a similar purpose for our children, as it is a place to help them enter into full, conscious and active participation in the liturgical and communal life of the Church. To learn more about the Atrium or to schedule a tour, contact (name, phone, email of local contact).
The Atrium (week 2)
What is a “prepared environment”? The prepared environment is a Montessori concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate independent learning by the child. In a prepared environment, children work with materials of their own choice and at their own pace. They experience a combination of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially prepared to meet their developmental and spiritual needs. To learn more about our prepared environment, the Atrium or to schedule a tour, contact (name, phone, email of local contact).
The Atrium (week 3)
“The atrium may be compared to a retreat house; as such it should be a place that facilitates recollection and silence, even in its external aspects of wall decorations and other furnishings. It is desirable that the atrium be “Mass-centered,” that is, a place where special prominence is awarded to the material relative to the Mass; a place where the baptismal font stands out in the area assigned to Baptism. The Gospel should have a position of honor and be located alongside the parable materials and materials relating to the historical life of Christ.” – Religious Potential of the Child by Sofia Cavalletti, p 56
For Your Reflection
1. The Atrium is a prepared environment for the child. How is our home environment “prepared” for the youngest members of our family?
2. If I had to make a list of ways my home environment reflects my faith, what would be on my list?
3. Do I have a favorite piece of sacred art? What is depicted and how does it enhance my prayer life and my relationship with God? What sacred images are available to my children in our home?
The following Sample Bulletin Announcements come from pages 22-23 of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in a Parish Setting (Revised Edition) by Tina Lillig
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Even though the catechesis year has just ended, we are already planning for next year. At an end-of-year meeting, we were offered a third atrium. Next year we’ll have separate atria for ages 3 to 6, 6 to 9 and ages 9 to 12. With this news, we also have some needs:
- a small low table for a prayer table
- shelving: two unites of three or four shelves at least 10″ deep
- school desks or small tables at which one or two children could work
- wine glasses for the celebration of the Last Supper. We could use 30 small, heavy glasses.
- someone who can sew two rugs together or could let us know where we could bring them to be sewn: Each rug measures 6’10” x 3’4″.
- someone to make 12 pencil trays – wood blocks with three grooves for three pencils
- cloths – white, purple, green, red (bright, liturgical shades): The cloths need to be about the size of a cloth napkin, place mat or 30-inch runner. Any help with these needs would be greatly appreciated.
To the parents of the 3-to-6-year-old children:
During April and May the children are very interested in flower arranging in the atrium. If you have any spring flowers in your garden, we would all be very appreciative if you could send a few with your child. Thanks!
Atrium cleanup will begin May 18 for the 6-to-9 and 9-to-12 atrium and June 1 for the 3-to-6 atrium. This involves washing shelves and tables and cleaning each piece of the materials. We then cover everything for the summer. This cleanup is important because many hands use the materials throughout the year. If you can give an hour or two, please call ________ to find out the days or evenings we’ll be working. Thanks!