An Introduction to the Environment of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Inviting a visitor to “come and see” has often been the best way to “explain” what the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is. When invited in, an adult will become quiet and wonder at all the different materials they can see. One material may catch their eye, something familiar, the altar table, the Cenacle. Just like the children who first walk through the doors, the adult longs to look with their hands, to open boxes and see what treasures are contained within. Perhaps, less like the child, they hesitate in case they are not allowed to explore further. Left alone, they may take things off the shelf and pick up the contents for closer inspection. They may get their phones out and take a few photos.
The first encounter in an atrium is one of wonder and perhaps awe. If parents walk in with a child, they like to share their knowledge of what they see, moving into teaching them the names or concepts the adult relates to in the work. Little children first seem to like to touch, to feel what has been prepared for them. They long to know, “Who made this?” They know it is a space for them because everything is just the right height and size for their smaller bodies. In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd it is the environment that becomes the teacher. The young children learn more from interacting in their environment than through direct instruction. That is why it is so important that the catechist prepares the environment to entice the children to draw nearer to God and to form a loving relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
If our goal is to help children enjoy a relationship with God, we must consider carefully the question, “What kind of environment will respect and cultivate their needs and capacities at their level of development, especially in terms of their spiritual development?”
The atrium therefore is not a classroom “not a place of religious instruction, but of religious life” (Sofia Cavalletti, Religious Potential of the Child). It does not replace the Church but instead prepares them to become full participants in the life of the Church. This work cannot be the work of the catechist or the atrium alone. As Sofia says “The initiation of a child into the Christian life is not a work that can be fulfilled by the catechist alone, nor by the parents alone. It is the whole Christian community that proclaims Christ, and the child must enter into contact with the whole Christian community. The catechist’s work… must be sustained and confirmed by a community that lives what the catechist proclaims.” Ideally the atrium should hold a place within a parish community.
The Atrium is a place of Prayer and Worship, a place of quiet and peace, a place of retreat. A place where quite spontaneously, work and study become meditation, contemplation and prayer.
We invite you to come and see the space we have prepared for the children. You will find the details on our website. https://www.cgswa.org.au/events/
Or you can contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a time to visit.