Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Laity, priests learn about establishing a religious foundation for children so that it grows with them
Mary Mirrione knew Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was succeeding in her parish when, after one Sunday Mass, a four-year-old girl walked up to the pastor, tugged on his chasuble, and told him that she didn’t hear him pray the epiclesis during Mass.
“Of course, he did,” Mirrione said, “But the funny thing was all the adults standing with him were looking at each other saying, ‘What’s the epiclesis?’”
Because of her religious formation, she said, the child knew the term for the calling-down of the Holy Spirit, when the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine to become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.
Parents prompted to learn more, too
One of the benefits of the catechesis for children is that parents who may not have a good foundation in the faith may be prompted to begin a more in-depth study of their faith.
“We see, that while our focus is on the child, it (faith) blossoms and grows also in the family and in the parish and in the community,” Mirrione said from her home in Gilbert, Arizona. “CGS is a common religious experience involving children and adults, in which the religious values of childhood – primarily those values of contemplation and enjoyment of God – are predominant.”
The program uses Maria Montessori’s vision and methods to catechize children using the scripture and liturgy of the church, she said.
“We’re advocates for the religious life of children. In this world there is such a need for them to have a place prepared for them and for their relationship with God.”
Wichita has had CGS atriums for years that are growing, Mirrione said, adding that she flew to Wichita late last month to personally welcome the new regional group, called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Heartland Region, and to make presentations to diocesan personnel, to diocesan priests, and at Newman University.
“We were very grateful to the bishop that he invited us to speak to his priests,” she said, “because, certainly, the pastors have a particular shepherding that they need to be aware of, especially with the little ones – how to serve best the little ones.”
Visited with priests, Newman U.
She spoke to catechists, seminarians, and others interested in the religious life of children at Newman University Friday evening, Oct. 29. On Saturday she met with all of the CGS catechists of the region about how to best serve their children.
Mirrione said the program’s catechists are always first servants of the child’s religious life with God.
“Catechists have at least 90 hours of formation before they work with three-year-olds. We’re very committed to forming good, solid catechists and preparing a space that is just right for the young child’s relationship with God,” she said.
“What we have seen around the country, and honestly around the world, is that in doing so, the parents and the parish and the pastors can do what Jesus commanded us to do: follow them (the children) into the kingdom of heaven because they do show us a particular way.”
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd can be the seed for the growth of the faith in the family and the parish, she added.
Quoting from the cgsusa.org website, Mirrione said, “CGS is a common religious experience involving children and adults in which the religious values of childhood, primarily those values of contemplation and enjoyment of God, are predominant. This experience is shared in a place particularly prepared for the religious life of children called the Atrium.”
In early church history, an atrium was an open court or an entrance area in front of the church, she said.
“It was the place in the early church where the catechumens would go and learn about the church so that they could enter into it,” Mirrione said. “But, also, we enter into the liturgy to be dismissed out into the world. So it’s that place in between. That’s why we call it the atrium because it’s that place in between for children, where they can be prepared to enter and celebrate fully, actively, and consciously in the liturgy, but also be dismissed out into the world to bring his love and his joy.”