Children's Formation

Waiting in the atrium

The children in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atria are marking the Sundays of the Advent season, making their own paper Advent wreaths, working with a liturgical calendar and hearing stories of the Annunciation and the Visitation – the first when the angel visits Mary to tell her she’s going to have a special baby and name him Jesus, and the second when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is carrying her own special baby to be named John the Baptist.

Placing Jesus as a real man in a real place and time has been the work of the children leading up to these Infancy Narratives. The Level 1 children have a sandpaper globe, a puzzle map of Israel and a relief map of the region. They are able to touch and discover the important cities in the life of Jesus – Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

In Level 2, further geography work includes pin maps and a scavenger hunt-type card work that challenges them to look up Scripture passages to complete a search for cities of the early life and ministry of Jesus. They also hear about Mary and Elizabeth, going a bit deeper into the details of the stories and hearing more of the Magnificat, Mary’s special prayer of praise.

The oldest children in Level 3 have been concentrating on the Plan of God, marking Advent with Bible study and recalling how the birth of Jesus is the beginning of one of the three great moments in the Kingdom of God – Redemption. The other two are Creation and Parousia (when God will be all in all).

Laura Starr-Houghton helps a child gather materials to create a pasting depicting the colors of the church year.
The Level 2 children prepare to hear a presentation during Advent.
Children's Formation Happenings Now


The children in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atria worked recently in the garden space between the old and new building. The space adjoins a play area fenced off several years ago, but never fully completed.

Before the snow sets in for good for the winter, the children worked very hard in both areas to rake, move stones and old building materials, replant perennials, dig out stumps and other tasks. Plans were also mapped out for the spring, taking into account the shady areas as well as those that will receive enough sunlight for flowering plants.

We hope to use those flowers for our arranging work in the atria. We’d also love to plant a “pizza garden”!  Want to help? See Laura Arvin.

All ages got involved.
Clean up is more fun with friends!
This group was mighty proud of a particularly difficult stump they managed to extract. It was a fun day outside in the sunshine enjoying God's creation.
Children's Formation

A New Year…

Flower arranging is a favorite work for children in the Level 2 atrium.

Our Children’s Formation program – the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd – started a new year September 25. Children arrived to find the space had been changed around. The youngest children in Level 1 are now in their own room (once occupied by the oldest children). Levels 2 and 3 are in the big room, separated by dividers, but with a pass-through between so that the older children might access some of the materials from Level 2.

This “porous-ness”  is also an advantage for the adults who are with the children. We now have two catechists – one for Level 1 and one for Level 2 and 3. Laura Starr-Houghton is training for Level 2 and Laura Arvin is training for Level 3.

If anyone is interested in beginning training, please see either of these women to express an interest. And, as always, if you would like to join us in the atrium to see what the children are up to, please come and see!


Children's Formation

Recognition Day for Atria

On June 12, 2011, one of the many milestones we will be celebrating is the end of the formation year. Each year, the adults in our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program recognize the children’s work during the past year, giving certificates of completion and offering a gift to those who will move into the next level in the fall.

We hope all parents and children can be there for this, as well as to offer Anne God’s blessing as she “retires” as our Level 3 catechist.

The Sunday of June 12 is the feast of Pentecost, the celebration of the visitation of the Holy Spirit to the disciples. In the atria, Pentecost is marked with a special presentation involving a meditation on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and a sharing of the Light of Christ in strengthening us in those gifts.

The children and adults love these celebrations, especially because they involve receiving our own lights – our own candle to watch over – until time when we put them all together on the prayer table and watch the light get bigger and spread. Our lights joined make all the lights more beautiful and stronger.

This will be our final atrium session until the fall. Many thanks to parents and other adults in the congregation who have assisted in the atrium this year. We hope that others will be called to join the adults and children as we deepen our relationships with God.

Children's Formation

Children’s Programs: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The Montessori-based Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is offered to children age 3 to Grade 6 in classrooms (called atriums) located in our old church building. During our formation year, the children enter the atriums at 9:15 a.m. and join the regular service, which begins at 10:00 a.m., at the exchange of the Peace, which is about 10:40 a.m.

Working with the parable of the Good Shepherd
Working with the parable of the Good Shepherd

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd originated in 1954 in Rome, inspired by the Montessori principles of “self-teaching.” This approach to religious education honors the spiritual potential of children and seeks to offer the essentials of the Christian faith in a way that engages and delights them.

An interpersonal relationship is always a mystery, all the more so when that relationship is between God and the child. We believe that there is a deep bond between God and the child which produces in the child the desire to draw near to God.

The role of the catechist — the adult who is with the children in the atrium –is to prepare an environment and to make presentations that call forth the child’s response rather than pour in information. Catechists listen with the child and together ask, “God, who are you? How do you love us?”


A child explores materials in the Level 3 atrium.
A child explores materials in the Level 3 atrium.


The catechist is a co-wonderer with the children as they together enjoy meditating on the questions generated by the Scriptures with the materials in the atrium as a developmental aid.

To read more about our children’s formation program, follow check out the Website of the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Anne McCausland is the catechist in the Level 3 Atrium, which is for ages 9-12, Laura Arvin is the catechist for Level 2, ages 6-9, and Laura Starr-Houghton is the catechist for the Level 1 Atrium, age 3-6.