As Catholics, we are likely familiar with what Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:14 — “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” But do we stop to think about what this means for us and our children on a day-to-day basis? Jesus is here for them — He calls them by name and it is our responsibility to guide them to Him. This is where the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program can assist.
“The purpose of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is to listen to God with children in a way that both the child and the adult may fall more deeply in love with God,” says Sarah Novak, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd coordinator. “We know that God is love and that the child is wired for love. What kind of environment can we provide to nurture this budding relationship between God and the child?”
With this as an aim, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd sessions — which began here at St. Peter during the 2020-2021 school year — take place in a specially prepared room known as the atrium. Each atrium is set up purposefully according to the developmental and spiritual needs of the child.
“The atrium is one of the most important elements of our program that help the relationship between God and the child to flourish,” Sarah says. “The moment you set foot in an atrium you are aware that you have entered a space that is uniquely different than a classroom. The lights are low, voices are a whisper, and there is a slower pace to physical movement.”
The physical elements of the atrium stand apart, as well. These items include topographical maps of Israel, miniature environments representing elements of parables and historical events, and much more. The materials are all displayed in such a way as to invite the children to interact with them — to touch them, to hold them, to explore them. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd offers the children an opportunity to encounter Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in a very hands-on and age-appropriate manner.
“The children have a desire to draw near to God,” Sarah says. “This world is loud, fast, and busy. The atrium is quiet, slow, and peaceful. This program gives the children a space and a time to intentionally listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd speak to them. It is an invaluable gift.”
Yet, as Sarah says, even the adult catechists who serve our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program experience personal encounters with Jesus while doing so.
“Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has had a great impact on my spiritual growth,” Sarah says. “I didn’t know I was supposed to have a personal relationship with Jesus until I was an adult, and I rarely opened my Bible. Now, because of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd method, I can feel myself resting in the arms of the Good Shepherd while reading His Word and participating more fully in the Liturgy.”
All children in preschool through second grade at St. Peter are automatically enrolled. But even if your children do not attend St. Peter, they are welcome to take part in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and we would love to have them do so. And, as Sarah notes, catechists are needed and welcomed.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” she says. “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd needs more volunteers to serve the children. Please prayerfully consider being one”
To enroll your children in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, visit saintpeterslincoln.com. To serve with this program, contact Sarah Novak at email@example.com.