Sisters trace an image during a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training program. Handout photo

Children are embracing hands-on Catechism

By  Agnieszka Krawczynski, Canadian Catholic News
  • September 24, 2018

VANCOUVER – An innovative program has revamped religious education at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Vancouver.

According to Fr. Eugenio Aloisio, since the parish moved from a lecture-style classroom to the interactive Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), the Church’s youngest Catholics have been far more interested in their faith.

“I think it’s the way of the future,” said Aloisio. “Kids nowadays learn in such different ways just because of the use of mass media and technology.”

He swapped the parish’s PREP program with CGS after he’d learned about it at a priests’ study day nearly two years ago, and he hasn’t looked back.

“In the old program, there was a teacher in front of the classroom and going over material in the book. Then, they would be dismissed,” said Aloisio.

With CGS, children are invited to explore child-size versions of actual elements they might see at Mass, like a miniature altar, baptismal font, Easter candle or tabernacle, in a Montessori-inspired classroom. 

The program has been adopted in many parishes across the country, including in Toronto, Ottawa, Saskatoon and Edmonton.

“It motivates the children on their level to enter into the liturgy or to understand the liturgical year or the different elements of the sacraments,” the pastor said.

“It moves from a passive retention of the Catechism to an active process by which the kids can claim as their own the Catechism.”

There are 17 children in St. Francis of Assisi’s religious education classes. It’s a relatively small number (most children in the parish attend St. Francis of Assisi Elementary), which made the transition easy.

“Seeing how it worked out well at the parish, it’s something I’m thinking about bringing into the school,” said Aloisio. 

He admits that would be a much more challenging feat since many more CGS teachers would need to be trained.

CGS is used in 21 classrooms across the archdiocese. There are more than 60 Level 1 (ages 3-6) CGS teachers in the Vancouver area, and at least a dozen who can also teach Level 2 (ages 6-9). Level 3 is for ages 9-12, but according to co-ordinator Murita Chua, only teachers who have completed Level 1 can go on to Level 2, then 3, making for a tedious training process. 

It’s not just children who are being inspired by this program. Religious sisters, deacons and lay people study CGS to teach religious education, but, like Sr. Xaviera Bilung, also find it personally rewarding.

“The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has proven to be very effective because it enables the child to encounter Christ, the Good Shepherd, in a very concrete and personal way,” said Bilung, a Missionary of Charity living in Vancouver.

“It is focused on what is essential: human formation, the Word of God, and the liturgy. It catechizes the heart; it motivates; it attracts.”

She said being a facilitator for a class requires her to deepen her faith.

“There is an awareness, on the part of the facilitator, of the capacity of the child for a deep and profound relationship with God, and therefore the child is given the space and aid to grow in that relationship in their own particular way and in God’s own time,” said Bilung.

“Facilitators must also give space and time for our personal relationship with Almighty God, because what we share is meant to be the overflow of our union with God in silence, study, prayer and liturgy.”

Vancouver will host the national CGS conference Oct. 19-21.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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Who gave permission to print this picture? Picture taken March 23, 2017 at Holy Trinity Parish, North Vancouver during
a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Level One Formation Course.

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