Karen Sisson, a full-time trainer with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, describes the topographical map of Israel to Leah Kurzynski, new director of religious education for the Rice Lake cluster, during a training session in early August. The women are on the floor in the atrium – the name for the designated space where CGS instruction takes place – at St. Joseph, Rice Lake. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which originated in Italy, utilizes a Montessori-style approach to presenting the faith and fostering spiritual growth.

Children ages 3-12 are the main focus of the program, which is divided into three atria.

Atrium I, designed for 3- to 6-year-olds, focuses on the child’s ability to wonder and experience Jesus as the Good Shepherd. They are also introduced to the Eucharist as the sacrament of the gift through learning about the items and gestures used during Mass.

Atrium II celebrates the growth of 6- to 9-year-old children primarily through the image of Jesus as the true vine. They continue diving deeper into the mystery of the Mass and the Eucharist and are introduced to moral parables in the gospels to assist in their understanding of their relationship with God, family, friends and the larger community.

Nine- to 12-year-olds work in Atrium III, which is designed to honor their independence and includes materials on the Old Testament, the prophets and miracles of Jesus. Children are encouraged to see themselves as part of the history of salvation and as collaborators with God in relationship.

One of the organization’s aims is “To involve adults and children in a religious experience in which the religious values of the child are predominant, keeping in mind that the contemplative nature of the child indicates to the adult a certain way of drawing near to God.”

Several parishes in the diocese are already utilizing CGS, including St. Patrick’s in Hudson, Holy Family in Woodruff, St. Theresa in Three Lakes and St. Pius X in Solon Springs.

The Rice Lake cluster is opening their atrium this fall and will be using best practices provided by CGS.
Ten persons took part in the training, which was one of two; the second training will be held next summer. Participants came from clusters in cities around the diocese – Osceola, Ladysmith, Rice Lake, Hayward, Woodruff and Rhinelander.