Faith formation of children: a call for catechists

By Dr Christine Wood, Director of the Office of Evangelisation & Catechesis

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for children ages 3-6 years old has begun in the Kingston-Channel Parish. Parishioner, Catherine Sandric, has spent many hours making the materials, with the help of people from the local ‘men’s shed’, and has gathered about seven volunteers to help deliver the catechesis to children.

This method of catechesis follows Maria Montessori’s educational principles. The catechesis is immersed in Scripture so the children hear the Gospel and spend time contemplating the mysteries of Jesus’ life, as well as the Jewish expectations for their Messiah found in the Old Testament.

The children discover the rich connection between the Gospel and the liturgy, and work with liturgical materials like a child-sized baptismal font and altar. They learn the names of liturgical vessels and vestments. They discover how what they hear proclaimed from the Bible is made present to them in the liturgy. And they learn about the geography of the Holy Land.

Although the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd also includes the formation of children ages 6-9 and 9-12, the atrium at Kingston is starting just with children aged 3-6.

The whole work requires the formation of adult catechists whose task is to prepare the sacred space for the children called the ‘atrium’. This is where the children grow in their relationship with God, which was first proclaimed to them through Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

The atrium is a place of prayer and community rather than a place of academic study. The children experience God and are encouraged to listen to Him and respond in faith. This method of faith formation (or catechesis) was developed in 1954 by Dr Sofia Cavelletti, a Scripture scholar, and Prof. Gianna Gobbi, who learned her educational principles from Maria Montessori.

The Archdiocese of Hobart is sponsoring the formation of potential catechists for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at the Kingston Atrium on Friday to Sunday, 16-18 July. During the three full days of formation, participants will learn about the general developmental characteristics, religious nature and religious needs of children aged 3-6 years. They will also be presented with the materials in the atrium with which the children will work.

If you are interested in attending this formation please contact christine.wood@aohtas.org.au or on 6208 6236. You don’t need to commit to working in the Kingston Atrium as we would like to establish other atriums in Tasmania. A short video on this catechesis can be viewed here.

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