As the Church of the Holy Trinity prepares to begin Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) Level 1 classes, I’d like to share my journey to learning about and eventually becoming involved with this program.
As I returned to practicing the faith seven to eight years ago, I began to hear of the program from various friends and acquaintances in the Catholic community. I did not fully understand the nature of the program, but the people who were a part of it really liked it.
Fortunately, in September 2018 our family attended the Eucharistic Congress at Auriesville Shrine. In one of the tents was a demonstration of a few of the materials and presentations used in CGS. There were materials small enough for a child to easily handle that represented articles of the Mass such as a small chalice and paten and small handmade vestments in the liturgical colors. Also, there were Scriptural-based materials.
What drew my daughter, Gianna, who had just turned 4, was the Good Shepherd presentation with 2D figures of sheep, sheepfold and the Good Shepherd. I watched as she quietly knelt before the table with the figures and began interacting with them. At first it looked like play until one of the catechists came over and began reading a very simple passage of Scripture about the Good Shepherd. Gianna didn’t stop what she was doing but I could tell there was something really beautiful happening. It was more than play – it was an encounter with Jesus.
I decided to sign Gianna up for a CGS Level 1 class that year at Blessed Sacrament in Albany. On Wednesdays after school we would head to Blessed Sacrament for her time in the “atrium.” As the year came to a close, I found myself inquiring more and more about the program and the training involved. As an occupational therapist, CGS appealed to my sense of the importance of the work of the hands. As a Catholic, it appealed to my sense of the need for quiet, contemplative time for spiritual growth, especially in a world that is so loud and busy.
Luckily, an opportunity came along in Hartford, Connecticut for Level 1 training. Fr. Brian and Marge Stockwell, the Faith Formation Director, have been very supportive in my interest to become trained in Level 1 with the plan to start a program at Holy Trinity.
Training began in the spring of this year and continues over multiple weekends until next spring. There is so much depth to the training, including learning about Maria Montessori and her method on education of children and the dedicated work of Sofia Cavaletti and Gianna Gobbi involving decades of observing children, and trying a variety of materials and presentations to find what draws young children into the spiritual life of the Church.
In training, working with materials and learning the presentations has at times brought me back to a child- like faith. The materials, which are handmade, add a beautiful and intimate touch to the presentations. The presentations, whether liturgical or Scriptural are simple, presenting just the essentials for children in Level 1.
I look forward to learning more and I am grateful to Andrea Reno who is allowing me to assist her this year as she provides our parish with the gift of a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Level 1 class. I pray it brings continued spiritual growth to our parish.
~ Karrie Marascia