of the Good Shepherd
At St. Agnes'
Atrium of the Lamb
In Advent 2014, St. Agnes is introduced a model of faith formation for young children called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS). CGS was developed over 60 years ago by Sofia Cavalletti. Together with Dr. Gianna Giobbi, she developed a program for 3 to 12 year olds on Church doctrine, the Bible and the Holy Mass with a hands-on approach using the Montessori method. Children are grouped based on age, with three different levels. At St. Agnes we are offering Level 1, which is for children from ages 3 through 5.
Why start a program for 3 to 5 year-olds?
At this age, children are developmentally ready and excited to form a deeper relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who calls them by name. Children of this age are deeply connected to God; they can easily fall in love with Jesus and begin a lifelong relationship with our Good Shepherd. Waiting until the child is 6 or 7 would mean passing this sensitive period for the personal relationship with Jesus and jumping into the moral reasoning stage. With a foundation of love, the law of God is not just an obligation but, a freely given response to God's great gift of love.
What is an Atrium? Why isn’t it called a classroom?
The Good Shepherd environment is called an atrium. It is a specially prepared room with beautiful hand-made child-size materials. Our "Atrium of the Lamb" at St. Agnes is on the top floor of Thomas Patrick Hall.
What do children do in the Atrium?
In the atrium, children fall in love with Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The atrium experience is the foundation for a life-long relationship with God which is then lived out in the Church community. Children live the central mysteries of our faith by working with and reflecting upon materials that revolve around the life of Christ, liturgical colors, geography, the altar and the Eucharist, the Gospels of the birth, passion and resurrection of Jesus, Advent prophecies, the parable of the Good Shepherd, the Kingdom parables, and Baptism. The core essentials of the faith are presented the first year, which are then built upon in following years. Time spent working with materials, generally child-sized models, allows the child to enter into the presentation in a more personal and prayerful way.
The level 1 atrium follows a cycle over the course of three years. Each year builds upon what was presented the previous year, taking into account the child's development and changing needs.
When is CGS offered for children at our parish?
Thursday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. & 11 a.m. to 12:30pm
We also offer CGS to the St. Agnes School Pre-Kindergarten students.
Who teaches the children?
In the atrium, Christ is the teacher. St. Paul said "It is Christ who teaches, not I." The catechist, who gives presentations to small groups of children, is seen as a guide and not a teacher. Afterwards, the child is able to do works in the atrium. The child is given this personal work time so that the Holy Spirit can be the inner teacher. "I will send you an advocate… the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth".
What else do I need to know as a parent?
One of the hallmarks of CGS is the intense focus and concentration the children can experience during a presentation by the catechist or while working with the materials. To maintain this atmosphere, we ask that the children be dropped off on time. Parents are welcome to observe the atrium by scheduling a time with the catechist in advance. Observers are seated in a chair by the edge of the room so as not to distract the children. Hopefully, too, the stillness will allow the observer to enter into the spirit of meditation along with us!
How can I register my child?
You may call or email the Religious Education ministry office at (610) 436-4640 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register your child.