Helping children hear the voice of the Good Shepherd
By Catherine Sheehan
In July the Archdiocese of Hobart hosted two formation leaders in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), at the Kingston-Channel Parish. Julie Zaar and Kathy Menzies, both from Melbourne, ran two training programs back-to-back for those wanting to learn the CGS method of catechising children in the faith.
“CGS is a process of religious formation for children 3-12 years old,” Julie Zaar said. “The prepared environment of the Atrium is intentionally shaped to meet the religious needs of the child in each developmental age group. That is 3-6, 6-9 and 9-12. Its aim is to provide a space where the child can fall in love with God through the use of hands-on materials and presentations.”
The CGS method was developed by Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi using the educational principles of Maria Montessori. It involves the use of an Atrium, an area set aside for the children with prepared materials to stimulate their imaginations.
“Everything within the Atrium is either a passage to prayer or prayer itself,” Julie said. “The hands-on materials are focused around the two pillars of scripture and liturgy along with every day practical life activities such as arranging flowers and watering plants.
“An example of some of these scripture materials are a handmade green wooden sheepfold, a wooden Good Shepherd figure and 10 wooden sheep. The liturgical materials include a “model altar” smaller than child size that has miniature but beautiful versions of the items they see at Mass such as the chalice and paten.”
One of the participants, Eleanor Griffiths, said she found CGS was an effective way of forming children in the faith.
“This method of giving catechesis is a great help for the children to enjoy the seed of faith in their hearts,” she said.
Julie said CGS provided children with a place of “solace and peace”, allowing them to work at their own pace as they come to “know and listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd who loves them and calls them by name”.
The training course at Kingston was well received by participants, she said.
“It was a privilege to work with the people of Tasmania at Kingston… The joy in which the adults embraced the vision of CGS was beautiful to see.
“Thank you to the generosity of the Archdiocese of Hobart who have supported the work of CGS in hosting us. Thanks too for the enthusiasm and hard work of Catherine Sandric, Christine Wood and their team in desiring to serve the children of Tasmania in their pursuit of bringing CGS to Tasmania.”