SASKATOON — “Awe and wonder.” Those are the words that Lisette Fontaine of the Trinity Pastoral Region uses to describe the introduction of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to Trinity’s three rural parishes.
What began as Fontaine’s search for more visual aids to enrich a parish sacramental preparation program has turned into “an amazing catechesis” for three- to six-year-old children, she reports. A presentation introducing the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at a Catholic mothers’ group initiated enough interest that a training session for catechists was held in January and May 2016.
“By the fall, after help from the three communities of Prud’homme, St. Denis and Vonda, we began our first year in the Trinity Atrium,” says Fontaine. Atriums have also been established at St. Patrick and St. Francis Xavier parishes in the city of Saskatoon, in addition to the very first atrium established in the province at St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church, Saskatoon.
In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), an atrium is a sacred, hands-on space created by catechists, where the Montessori-inspired religious formation program is offered to children, exploring the mysteries of the Christian faith as revealed in Scripture and liturgy.
CGS began in Rome some 60 years ago, and has since spread to 37 countries, including Canada in the 1980s.
“CGS is Catholic, yet adaptable for all denominations. It is Montessori-based faith education, where children are given time to work with material with their little hands and bodies in mind, responding to their needs, and guiding them with the essential truths of our faith in an organized environment, where the catechists ponder alongside each individual child, and the Holy Spirit does the rest,” summarizes Fontaine.
The Trinity Atrium is a sacred space where children gather for 90-minute sessions. Specially prepared for small children, a CGS atrium features child-sized furnishings, as well as items such as a small baptismal font, altar, tabernacle and work stations.
The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Fontaine shared comments from parents, such as: “The atrium gives my child the opportunity to grow in wonder at our faith, to become comfortable with the liturgy he sees at mass and to make his own relationship with God.”
Another parent mentioned the format of the program: “It seems to allow the children to grow and discover their faith in their own way. Even at such a young age my child is learning how to be silent and listen to the Holy Spirit.”
Response has been such that the Trinity Atrium is hosting two sessions on Saturday mornings, with plans for expansion if enough catechists can be trained, says Fontaine. Other helpers are also needed to assist with sessions, she adds.
“The gift must be shared, as well as the responsibility. And so we seek people to register for training in Saskatoon May 23-28, a rare opportunity, and pray that many more will be interested and called to become trained catechists,” she says. For more information about catechist training, see www.cgsac.ca or call Cynthia Foster at (306) 955-4854.