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“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14 NAB
How can a young child deeply encounter the love of God and respond to it? What does this look like? How can we as adults foster and facilitate children’s authentic and loving awareness of God? What are the needs and capacities for a healthy religious life that children show us for such relationship?
The method of Christian Faith Formation called The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has been exploring these questions for over 65 years guided by the Bible, Liturgy, Montessori principles, and the careful observation of what resonates most deeply with children.
Our host is Kerri Mecke-Lozano. Kerri has been involved with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd since 2010. She is certified in Level I, II, and III, and is in the process of becoming a certified formation leader by CGSUSA. She has worked in atria in both the United States and in Haiti. Kerri has a sociology degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and has completed the CGS Heritage course from Aquinas Institute of Theology, St Louis, MO. She currently resides in the Northeast Georgia mountains with her husband, PJ, and their five children.
Journey with us, every other Wednesday as we explore the spirituality of the child through The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32
During the Easter season we often hear the story of Jesus with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. This is one of the resurrection narratives catechists read and discuss with children in the Levels II and III atria (6-11 year old). This scripture offers many avenues to explore for both adults and children. Today Karen Maxwell joins us to ponder this narrative and how it parallels a catechist’s journey through formation in The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Karen became involved with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in 1990 when her oldest daughter was four years old. She was moved by the spiritual depth offered to the youngest children and found this approach to faith formation personally enriching as well. She helped to begin all three levels of atria in the first church in Georgia to offer Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She also enjoys introducing adults to this method of catechesis as a CGS formation leader. Karen joined the staff for the United States Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in 2004 as Director of Formation. Her work supports formation leaders and catechists through communications, conferences, ongoing formation and resources as well as in responding to a variety of inquiries and pastoral concerns about CGS. Karen is one of two US representatives to the International Council. She also was part of the first cohort to complete a Masters in Pastoral Studies in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Aquinas Institute of Theology. Karen currently serves as a Level III catechist for a church in her area. Her children, now young adults, all were involved in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd Parable – John 10:3-5,11-16
“The sheep of the Good Shepherd listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand cares nothing for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.“
Rebekah Rojcewicz has been a catechist serving all ages of children for thirty-eight years, having received her formation from Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi in Rome, Italy. Rebekah also serves Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in several capacities. In addition to being a catechist in her parish, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, and at the Missionaries of Charity atrium in Memphis, Rebekah is formation leader, a consultant to CGSUSA, and serves on the Giunta (Board) for the International Consiglio. Rebekah has translated many of the writings of Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi and is the editor and principal author of Baptism is a Beginning. She is one of the authors of The Good Shepherd and the Child A Joyful Journey and had just completed Life on the Vine: The Joyful Journey Continues which will be published next spring.
“For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” Ephesians 2:10
This week Angela Miller shares the story of her community in Ohio who have come together in response to the Holy Spirit to build atria, be formed, and fall more deeply in love with God together.
From the first day, it was clear to Angela that CGS was unlike anything she had ever experienced. The presence of the Good Shepherd in her own life grew and she fell in love with walking with the children and listening to the Voice of the Good Shepherd together. As a Clinical Psychologist, Angela spends her professional life confronting the deep wounds and brokenness which can plague the human person. She finds in the atrium a place where children and adults can encounter full acceptance and gain a true understanding of their value, place, and purpose in their homes, in their communities, and in the greater context of the plan of God. She feels that the sense of intentional connectedness, irreplaceable worth, and essential belonging that is the natural fruit of the atrium life is a gift of CGS to a hurting world. She offers the wealth of her training and education in psychology, as well as her extensive experience in program development, association leadership, and advocacy to CGSUSA in gratitude for God’s gift of CGS in her life and the lives of her five children.
When the day of the feast of Unleavened Bread arrived, the day for sacrificing the Passover lamb, he sent out Peter and John, instructing them, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” They asked him, “Where do you want us to make the preparations?” Luke 22:7-9
In this time when atria sessions, catechist formation, and even liturgical gatherings are being cancelled out of the need to social distance to fight the coronavirus pandemic, we ask how will we live Easter, this holiest time of year? How and where should we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection this year?
A thoughtful gift of encouragement for catechists of the Good Shpherd recently came from CGS leaders in Rome, Francesca and Patrizia Cocchini, who sent what is called in Italian, a Foglietto or a little letter. Certainly we are aware that the coronavirus has been particularly devastating for those in Italy and so both Francesca and Patrizia have pondered the same questions we are also considering as we look to Easter.
Francesca and Patrizia both spent many years as older children, adolescents, and adults with Gianna Gobbi and Sofia Cavalletti in the atria of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Their mother, Tilde Cocchini, was a close friend of Sofia and Gianna and one of their first colleagues in their work with children.
Ann Garrido, a catechist and formation leader for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd shares her reflections as she ponders the question found in the passage from the Gospel of Luke 28:1-8 that Peter and John asked Jesus before the Last Supper, “How do you want us to prepare?” It is a question Christians around the world are asking as we seek to celebrate the Triduum – the holy days of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.
Francesca Cocchini writes:
“This year will be the first time since the Lord celebrated his Easter, that so many of his people—we can say almost all his churches—will not be able to make it the memorial! And immediately what comes to mind for me is that question that all three Synoptic Gospels report: “Lord, where / how [pou in Greek means both things] do you want us to prepare …?”. Alas, it will be the first time, after two thousand years, that this question will be our question, and I have asked Him to show each of us and all of us and all the churches, where and how we should celebrate. Now we must have the patience to wait. We just have to start asking Him, but He will be the one to tell us, to tell everyone. Truly the story will not end without each of his words being fulfilled (cf. Mt 5:18). This year, for the first time, the Churches are invited to ask the question: “Lord, where do you want us to prepare…?”
Ann Garrido is associate professor of homiletics at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO and founding director of the school’s Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies program with an emphasis on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (MAPS-CGS). She has served as a catechist with children ages 3-12 since 1996. Ann is also a formation leader with the U.S Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for twenty-one years and a member of the association’s formation committee. She is the author of eight books, including Mustard Seed Preaching (LTP, 2003) and A Year with Sofia Cavalletti (LTP, 2017).
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
All your children will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be their peace.”
Isaiah 54: 10,13
Our lives are in a very unique place with the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic flooding the world. As Christians how do we respond to such a time? We have an opportunity to respond with hope and prayer. May the child lead us to a response of overwhelming thanksgiving to the abundance of gifts that surround us that maybe we are normally too busy to see. May we silence ourselves enough to be able to hear God whisper our name. Gianna Gobbi says, “Silence is a necessary means of listening to and responding to God… This is the greatest help to the child in becoming aware of and mastering his or her own actions.” May we embrace this opportunity to walk towards God leading others in our lives towards Him as well.
Here are links to some helpful resources.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Revelation 21:1-2 NAB
Why is exploring the geography of Jesus’ life important for the child’s spiritual journey? Can pondering biblical geography help us understand that Jesus was a real man in time and place?
Julie Baltuska shares with us her pilgrimage to the Holy Land and how it moved her spiritually to see, touch, experience the humanity of Jesus by standing where He stood. Throughout her trip she took many pictures she was able to use to help children in the atrium see that the places we lift up are real places on earth they can visit. She later made these pictures into three books for anyone to use in their atria to aid the child’s understanding of Jesus in the land of Israel. Find more information about the three Land of Israel books at CGSUSA New Products. These lovely picture books are available for purchase on the CGSUSA Parent Resources area of the CGSUSA eStore.
In the method of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd we use geography to aid the understanding of Jesus’ incarnation and humanity. By seeing that the places mentioned in the Bible are real places we can better contemplate the mystery of God, who is outside of time and space, humbling himself to dwell with us in time and space.
Julie Baltuska is a catechist and formation leader for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas. She received catechist formation in all three CGS levels and has served children in all three age groups. She particularly enjoys leading Level III catechist formation and is extremely proud that five additional members of her family are CGS catechists. (mother, brother, sister-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and granddaughter who is currently in Level 1 formation. Soon a sister will begin Level 1 catechist formation as well.) Julie has served on the board of directors for the SonFlower regional association of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Julie holds a theology degree from Rockhurst University. She is married, the mother of seven children, and grandmother of nine. In her “retirement” from being a full-time mother of little ones, Julie has become fairly fluent in Spanish, is beginning to dabble in the arts (sculpture and pastels), and still dreams of learning to play the piano!
“Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others.” – Colossians 3:23 NAB
Does the idea of making materials for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium intimidate you? Do you find material making to be spiritually uplifting or seemingly impossible? Why is the catechist requested to make the materials with his/her own hands? How can this become a tool for spiritual growth?
Lynda Catalano shares with us her wisdom and passion for making the materials by hand. She encourages us to go beyond what we THINK are our artistic capabilities. Lynda shares with us her journey in making materials for the children’s use in the atrium. She offers practical tips along with looking at how through making CGS materials catechists can re-discover the value of being essential and she does this by inviting us to embark on a deeply spiritual Lenten journey while making the City of Jerusalem.
Come join us and be inspired to pick up a paint brush or try your hand at a scroll saw and most importantly, to find spiritual value in the work of YOUR hands and the gift materials are to the work of the children in the atrium.
Lynda Catalano has been a catechist at Trinity Church in Fillmore, California for 30 years. She works weekly in the atrium with groups of 3 to 6-year-olds, 6 to 9-year-olds, and 9 to 12-year-olds. She has led Levels I, II and III catechist formation throughout the United States and internationally including serving on national formation teams. Lynda is bi-lingual in Spanish and has also offered catechist formation in Spanish. She is a member of the Formation Leader Discernment Committee and served on teams for the Formation Leader Training Courses for the United States Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Lynda is retired from teaching kindergarten and first graders in a public school. She has four adult children and three beautiful grandchildren.
“A tranquil mind gives life to the body” Proverbs 14:30a NAB
What is the Montessori philosophy of “normalization?” What does it look like? Does it look the same in each child? How can we foster normalization?
Normalization fosters peace and joy in the child. It allows the child to enter into a deeper spiritual prayer time. As adults we have a unique role to create the optimal environment and freedom that will allow a child to enter into normalization. We are capable of fostering or obstructing this process. We must not allow the uncomfortableness of boredom or struggle to obstruct the child’s natural potential to enter deeply into meaningful work on their own.
Gabriela Perez is a Montessori guide in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. She is the director of Little Way School which is a Catholic Montessori School that serves children of all financial abilities and backgrounds. She has been involved as a Montessori guide and as a catechist for The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for over 12 years. She is AMI certified at the primary level and formed in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in level 1.
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord; great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13 NAB
Diane Olsen shares with us the importance of the environment for the absorbent mind of the child. We explore the role that the environment has in spiritual formation and the place of the adult in that environment. Our discussion is on the first two chapters of Gianna Gobbi’s book Listening to God with Children.
Diane helps us appreciate the importance of a simple and purposeful environment for children. How does the physical environment of a room aid a child’s spiritual growth and development? A space that is simple and essential has the ability to create peace in the child whereas a busy or embellished environment can be distracting and unsettling to a child. Diane lifts up the adult’s role as the one to prepare the space for the child but the adult must also prepare internally to meet the child where he or she is, leaving all expectations and pride behind. The adult must remember that the Holy Spirit is the true teacher in the atrium.
Diane Olsen has been involved in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd since 1990. She has received all formation levels and was recognized as a formation leader in 2002. She is actively involved leading catechist formation around the country and was recognized She is co-director of CGS at Holy Trinity Parish, Lenexa, Kansas. Diane has a philosophy and math degree from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies-Catechesis of the Good Shepherd from the Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, Missouri. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother.
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,* you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 NAB
Does the child already have a connection with God? How can we, as adults, foster it? Why does an encounter with God create a peace and joy in the child and what does this look like? What about the children who have a hard time finding that peace and joy? What is a Metaphysical child?
Rebekah Rojcewicz explores with us the spiritual depth of the child that is discussed in the first chapter of The Religious Potential of the Child by Sofia Cavalletti. In this episode she helps us have a deeper understanding and respect for the hidden riches of the child. She lifts up the place of the adult as co-learner so that we can allow the true teacher, the Holy Spirit, to encounter the child.
You can purchase the NEW third edition of The Religious Potential of the Child today!
Rebekah is a catechist and formation leader in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd having completed her training in 1981 in Rome with Dr. Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi. She has translated several of their books and articles from the original Italian and has written and edited various parts of the CGS core texts. Her book, Life in the Vine: The Joyful Journey Continues, is due for publication in 2020. Rebekah is a catechist at her parish, St. Patrick Catholic Church, and for the Missionaries of Charity atrium in Memphis, Tennessee. She serves on the formation committee of CGSUSA, as well as on the International Board for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Welcome to the Good Shepherd and the Child Podcast! Where we explore the spirituality of the Christian child using the method of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
In this introductory episode Mary Mirrione, National Director of the United States Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, answers the question: WHAT IS The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?
Mary Mirrione began working with CGS in 1992. She and a team of catechists and parents built atria at St Anne’s in Gilbert, Arizona for their 1800 children. She has been a formation leader since 1997 serving as such at home and abroad. She also worked with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Honduras and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity throughout the United States and around the world. Mary served on the Board of the National Association and is a member of first cohort at Aquinas Institute to receive a Masters in Pastoral Ministry in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She serves as a faculty member of Kino Catechetical Institute in the Diocese of Phoenix. Since 2010, she serves as the National Director for the United States Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
We hope you will join us every other Wednesday starting January 8th, 2020 for a journey into the religious life of the child and how we as adults can foster and facilitate the children’s relationship with God.