CGS and Ecumenism

Ecumenism, from the Greek word “oikoumene,” meaning “the whole inhabited world,” is the promotion of cooperation and unity among Christians.

“Ecumenism is, first of all, an act of faith that opens completely new horizons before us. It is an act of faith similar to Abraham, who departed by the light of the stars toward the land that the Lord pointed out to him. But how to reach this land? Like Abraham we have a light that illumines us from above, namely our absolute trust in the God of history, who guides us to our goal. To this light we ought to entrust ourselves, and then ecumenism will become for us a profound education in faith.”
—Sofia Cavalletti; Read Sofia’s Perspective on CGS AS A CONTINUUM

Today, the Ecumenical movement has been brought about by the conviction that a divided Christianity is a scandal to the world. The term was introduced in 1919 by Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931) Swedish Lutheran archbishop; he received the Nobel Prize in 1930, which was the first such recognition of a religious leader. In The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd®, we have been drawn together for the love of God and the love of our children. Sectarian concerns move to the background, though the pain of eucharistic division continues.

Essentiality, a characteristic of the child, has guided both the choice of subjects and the catechesis methodology. Essentiality also appears to be a force for unity among Christians. Several things that could impede ecumenical progress are beginning to be overcome in The Good Shepherd Catechesis. In the past three decades, there has been extensive dialogue among the churches at national and international levels, but often when some consensus is reached there, the reception among churches at the local level is minimal. The catechesis network is a community ready and eager to receive the concrete suggestions for church fellowship that result from ecumenical agreements. Sometimes ecumenism at the local level is dependent on chance events: the comings and goings of the local priest or rector, a parishioner with strong interests in ecumenism. Though it is not really an institution, the catechesis gives some stamina and security to ecumenical efforts and provides some grass-roots models. The ecumenical aspect of the catechesis was a great surprise to everyone.

We have questions about the historical roots of the division, about the disciplines of the several churches, like the discipline regarding intercommunion; theological questions – scriptural, liturgical, ecclesial, doctrinal. We continue to ask these questions and as we continue to study and learn from each other. We stand together, and we proclaim God’s praise for so many gifts:

  • The gift of the knowledge that our unity is in what is essential.
  • The gift that the children guide us all as we work.
  • The gift of ecumenical perspective that informs our formation courses.
  • The gift of growing esteem and respect for our diverse traditions.
  • The gift of our continued attempts, despite past failings, to eliminate any words, judgments, or actions that could make our mutual relations difficult.
  • The gift of morning prayer and evening prayer.

And finally, the gift of our different traditions, which, rather than being an obstacle, have made The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd® even more comely, more beautiful. Ours is a simple work and a somewhat hidden work with children. But it could be a greater work than we realize. In the nineteenth century, the very hidden work of missionaries gave birth to the modern ecumenical movement. Missionaries realized that the division of the Christian churches undermined the credibility of the gospel. In the twentieth century, the hidden work at the desks of scripture scholars led to the historical-critical methods of scripture study and much collaboration across denominational lines. In the twenty-first century, our hidden work with children, begun by Sofia and Gianna, may prove to be another of God’s instruments designed to bring new life and new energy to the ecumenical movement.

We will wait and see and continue to work all together.

General Ecumenical Resources

Christian Churches Together
USCCB – Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
World Council of Churches
level 1 atrium child playing
(CCT) in the USA was developed as a forum in which Christian Churches could form new relationships with other Churches. Founded in September 2001 and officially announced in April 2002, CCT brings together a diverse group of Christian Churches in order that “all who believe will be one with God and one another, so that the world may believe in Him as Lord and Savior.” CCT meets annually to pray and worship together, to build relationships of trust, and to discern challenges that need to be addressed in society in order to strengthen the collective Christian witness to the world.
level 2 atrium child
At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church committed herself irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture….” [Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, #3]. The BCEIA and the Secretariat support this vital commitment. In a dozen formal dialogues and in a host of less formal conversations, the BCEIA and the SEIA seek to fulfill this commitment. The commitment is intrinsic to Catholic identity. The work and hope of the committee is to come to a deeper understanding with the members of other religious groups and together build a strong civil community.
level 3 atrium children
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches that confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, “so that the world may believe.” (John 17:21)

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We believe God and the child have a unique relationship with one another. Children need their own place to foster the growth of that relationship. The growth of this relationship is assisted by the adult, but is directed by the Spirit of God within the child.

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What is the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd? The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was born from the joy of the children’s encounter with God. It has been observed that children of the same developmental stage, even those from widely varying cultural backgrounds, respond to elements of the Christian message in the same way.

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In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd adults are given the opportunity to embrace a method of catechesis (or religious education) that will deepen one’s relationship with God. Catechist formation in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is both instructive as well as experiential. It captivates both the head as well as the heart.

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We read in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs, two by two; the journey was not meant to be a solitary one. It is essential for us as catechists to support one another as we prepare materials, work in the atrium, and observe the child. We come together in unity, as members of CGSUSA, to share the joy of this work.

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Through their joy, their wonder and awe, their capacity for love and prayer, and their radical simplicity, children offer us adults a glimpse of what it means to fall in love with God. This has been the work of CGSUSA for over 30 years: to advocate for the child’s joy.

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