2019 has begun in the atrium here. We open our doors to some familiar faces and some new faces on Thursday. The Catechists have been preparing the space readying the materials, buying new supplies, remaking and repairing some of the works.

We look forward with anticipation to a year of sharing the love of the Good Shepherd with the children and learning from them some new insights into the secrets God has hidden for us to discover for ourselves.

The atrium is a sacred space made especially for children to discover and grow in their relationship with Jesus. Our role as Catechists is to guide them and prepare opportunities for them to find Jesus. We allow the Holy Spirit to work in the materials and environment to awaken their hearts to God. So, our role is not as a teacher but as a servant, a matchmaker between the child and God. Like a servant we look for openings to invite the children into a deeper relationship. We observe their interests and abilities and match the work to them.

Some children arrive with a plan of what they will do, others need some time to adjust to a quieter, slower environment and may need help to make initial choices. Some children need to move, we look for work that involves movement. Some like the challenge of a puzzle, we have works that meet that need. Still others are opening up to the joys of writing and reading. All of the materials in the atrium have been chosen by children to meet their deepest needs and to encourage them in their life of prayer.

In the first few weeks after a long break, the children often need some structure to reacquaint them to the sacred space. Older children decide on what they think will be appropriate rules for their community to work peacefully together. If the atrium has been changed, we give a short tour so they can easily find the materials they know. New children are welcomed, and more experienced children help them to find what they need.

The rhythm of the atrium generally begins with work time, during which they may receive a presentation and concludes with a prayer time where they can respond to what they have experienced that day. Presentations are dictated mainly by the interest of the children and by the liturgical cycle. Not every child will receive a presentation every week, or the same presentations as the other children. Whole group presentations are rare, with most given individually or to small groups.

Children keep a record of any art or prayer responses in a prayer journal or folder, which at some later time they take home. Some children create a lot, others none or hardly any. We are privileged to bear witness to their growth in prayer and relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd.