In Matthew 19, as children are crowding around Jesus and the disciples tell the children to leave Him alone, Jesus corrects them. Calling the children to Himself, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
The children wanted to be near Jesus. They wanted to see Him, to know Him, to love Him. And Jesus wanted them near Him, just as they were — little, wild, and sweet. Children are precious to Christ in their littleness, and He wants them to come to Him now, not once they’ve matured in their faith.
With this in mind, Victoria Bulcher, Director of Discipleship for St. Joseph, brought Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) to the ACC community three years ago.
“The aim of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program is to bring our children to Christ,” Victoria says. “We want to teach them how to pray, to help them better understand and participate in the Mass, and to come to a better understanding of their Catholic faith even at a young age.”
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd accomplishes this through a Montessori-based learning model wherein the children are presented with a lesson and then are invited to work with materials like Bible figurines and child-size Mass vessels and garments in order to help them to discover their faith in their way, on their level.
“Children are kinesthetic learners,” says Emily Radniecki, a CGS catechist. “They learn by doing. And Catechesis of the Good Shepherd allows them to pick things up and work with them in a way that brings the faith to life for them.”
Emily, whose own children are involved in the CGS program, says that she has been amazed at the way CGS has impacted them.
“It blows me away sometimes when my children comment on things outside of the atrium, apart from class time,” Emily says. “I have even had a child see a red lollipop and comment that it is the color of Pentecost!”
It is clear that the children are retaining so much from their lessons, and bringing their understanding of the faith into their daily lives.
Our atrium — the space set up for the sole purpose of catechesis — is currently located at St. Ann, and CGS classes are offered there for all ACC children, 3 to 6 years of age.
“We would love to offer classes for more children,” Victoria says. “But currently we only have a level-one program. We have plans to continue our training as catechists and begin a level-two class soon, but that will require more help and more training.”
Both Emily and Victoria encourage all of us with 3 to 6-year-old children to consider participating.
“You will be amazed at the way your children respond to this style of faith formation,” Victoria says. “It brings them into a life of prayer that is just amazing to witness.”
Emily says that in addition to recognizing elements of our faith life outside of the atrium, CGS has fostered a love for the Mass for her young children that she never could have imagined.
“They pay attention at Mass more because they understand what is happening,” she says. “They have heard the Scripture readings. They have identified the liturgical colors. They have talked about the chalice and the paten, etc. They are familiar with what they see, and that allows them to enter into the Mass on a deeper level, even at their young ages.”
Indeed, Christ’s call to let the children come to Him remains for us today, and CGS offers us a unique opportunity through which to do so. There will be two classes a week this year, with times and dates to be determined, depending on interest. In addition, if you’d like to serve to help with CGS, there are a number of things you could do to help.
If you are interested in registering your child for CGS classes this fall, or to serve with the program, contact Victoria Bulcher at 320-360-5193.