Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) began at Saint Joseph School early in 2022 with the Junior Kindergarten students, which has now been expanded to Kindergarten as well. CGS is a Montessori-based religious program through which children grow in their faith and personal relationships with God. It also helps them participate more fully in Mass. The entire program has three levels serving children from three to twelve years of age. The presentations take place in a sacred space called the atrium, located next to the faculty room. Each child has forty-five minutes in the atrium once a week in a small group of approximately eight to ten children. The atrium is not a classroom, but a place for the children to feel God’s love and presence. The articles in the environment are child-sized and directly related to the presentations and works of the program.
The activities in the CGS program were determined by catechists who spent many hours observing children and what aspects of the faith they were drawn to at various ages. In our Level I atrium, the children learn about and experience prayer and use the Bible, LED candle, statues, and prayer cards at the prayer table for their own personal prayer. They hear the Kingdom of God parables. For the Precious Pearl parable, the children move the wooden figure of the merchant through his house as they recall and reflect on what was read to them from the Bible. In the articles of the Mass and altar area, the children use the articles of the Mass to prepare the model altar for Mass. The children learn about the geography of Israel by using a raised surface map or a wooden puzzle of Israel. During the Advent and Christmas seasons, they move clay figures as they recall stories from the Bible about the infancy narratives. The Paschal Mystery is brought to life during the Lenten and Easter seasons when they are able to put the clay figures around the model table for the last supper and open the model of Jesus’ tomb to see where His body was before He rose from the dead. The children learn about Baptism, feel the water, and smell the oils used for baptism. They learn about Jesus as the Good Shepherd as they move the wooden figures and recall the story that was read to them and eventually come to the realization of what it really means.
The first several weeks of the program are designed to introduce the children to the atrium and how they are to move about and handle the materials. They work with what is called the practical life part of the program. These activities focus on skills that require careful movement of water, pebbles, beads, and clothespins from one place to another. They practice folding, plant care, and hand washing. These activities prepare the children for later works that will require pouring water and wine, folding cloth that is used at the altar, and moving fragile clay figures.