Two children take part in the Catechism of the Good Shepherd, St. Benedict Catholic Church’s children’s ministry. It teaches children about the basics of the Christian faith in a way that kids understand best.

Kid-friendly catechesis classes

By 
  • June 1, 2011

TORONTO - Children at 13 parishes in Toronto are learning the basics of the faith in a language that they understand.

The young catechism students take part in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a ministry that originated in Rome in 1954 and has been catching on in Catholic parishes across North America. Scriptural scholar Sofia Cavaletti founded the approach and teamed with Gianni Gobbi, a Montessori education specialist, to develop an experiential and hands-on approach of learning for children.

“We meet them intellectually, spiritually, emotionally where they are,” said Kathleen Ennis, co-ordinator of the archdiocese of Toronto’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

The catechesis emphasizes sacraments like Baptism and First Communion, and Jesus’ life, teachings and the mystery of the Resurrection.

“If we were to boil it down: God is love. Christ is Risen,” Ennis explained.

Each parish funds and designs its own program, though all of the catechists receive training through a special program at the University of St. Michael’s College.

At St. Benedict’s parish in Toronto’s west end, there are 66 youngsters aged three to 12 enrolled in the program. It’s not quite the Catholic version of Lilliput Island, but the atrium of St. Benedict’s houses mini replicas which explain the mystery of the Catholic Mass and how it relates to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in a “kid-friendly” way. Through a miniature model of the altar and other sacred objects, children learn about the reasons for the priest’s gestures and prayers at Sunday Mass. There is a mini chalice, paten, chasuble and the vestment worn by the priest during the celebration of the Eucharist, all of which students can feel and touch as a way to make the lessons come alive for them, said catechist Rosella Lucchitti.

“The idea is to be able to touch and experience what Jesus was talking about,” said Lucchitti.

Grade 3 public school student Noah Roussette says he “likes everything” about the catechism classes. When asked by Lucchitti during a group exercise what the gift of understanding meant, Roussette responded: “Understanding the word of God.”

Ennis said the program doesn’t try to replace the parish, school or home as a place of learning, but is meant to enhance a child’s religious education.

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