SASKATOON — A new hands-on program that nurtures young children’s love for Jesus will be offered this fall in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, but more trained catechists are needed.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd programs being introduced at St. Francis Xavier and St. Patrick parishes in Saskatoon already have waiting lists, organizers reported at an open house Aug. 27.
“Our hope is that others will take the training, so the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd can be experienced by more children,” said Cynthia Foster, noting that another Level One training session for catechists will be offered in Saskatoon Sept. 15 - 18. Foster took the training last year, and with the help of volunteers in the parish and beyond has created the materials needed for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium that is now set up in the St Francis stillness chapel.
Two others that took the training last year are also working to set up atriums: Jane Korvermaker at St. Patrick, and Lisette Fontaine at the Trinity parishes of Vonda, Prud’homme and St. Denis.
Linda Funk has presented the program for several years at the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium at St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church in Saskatoon.
At the recent St. Francis open house, visitors had a chance to see the space, which features simple materials with which children can explore Scripture, prayer and liturgy.
Foster described receiving help from the community to create, craft and collect the materials that make up the various stations in the atrium. “They were lovingly and carefully prepared,” she said, saying that setting up the space has echoed the prayerful spirit that permeates the program.
At one station, children can recreate the parable of the Good Shepherd with figures of Jesus and the sheep in the sheepfold — right beside another tableau of figures around the altar at the eucharist. Other stations focus on the infancy narratives, the Holy Land, the parables of Jesus, the sacrament of baptism, and elements of liturgy. Catechists share Scripture and prayer, or various elements of liturgy, and children are able to explore the material through hands-on experience at the various stations.
The delight and attention of one youngster at the open house demonstrated the impact of the space and the positive response to the spirit of the catechists; with no hesitation, he began to explore, listened carefully to a parable, and began to build connections.
Founded in Rome by Scripture scholar Sofia Cavaletti, with the help of Montessori collaborator Gianna Gobbi some 60 years ago, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was introduced to Canada in the 1980s by Patricia Coulter of the Toronto archdiocese. Gradually, interest grew, with more people asking for the course in Canada, and in 2005 the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Association of Canada was formed as a registered charitable organization.
For more information, contact email@example.com. Foster noted that even those who have not taken the training can help with the program — as assistants, in creating materials, and through prayer.