A Four-Part Video Series on our Sunday School Program for our young children. (October 29, 2019)
In 2018, Matushka Jo Anna/Mary Capp gave a talk on how Holy Apostles has implemented the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Sunday School curriculum in an Orthodox setting. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a Christ-centered comprehensive curriculum that introduces young children to the love of Christ and the Church at an early age in a developmentally appropriate way based on research about how young children learn and experience the Church and the world. This is largely done through the use of beautiful materials, individual lessons, and encouraging the child to explore and experience the truths of the Church for themselves.
These videos are also available on our Holy Apostles YouTube Channel.
From Matushka Deborah:
Here is a letter written to me in 2008, by my sister in Christ, good friend, and friend of our parish, Alice Anna Cartwright. She writes about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), which three of us from Holy Apostles began studying, at her recommendation, in the fall of 2008. In her letter, she says CGS is a program of catechesis for children, which holds great promise for use by the Orthodox Church. Though the program comes out of the Catholic church, Alice says it is "adaptable to Orthodoxy, being the ancient church and the most Liturgical of all. It also emphasizes contemplation and quietness of heart, which is at the center of Orthodox praxis and monastic life."
Dear Matushka Deborah,
I first heard about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd from my sister who is a Dominican nun in Nashville, Tennessee. She was on a home visit in Cleveland, Ohio, where I am currently residing. One of the things she hoped to do while here was to go to the parish of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Little Italy to see their “atriums”. They happened to have a well established Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program.
I had never heard of this program and she explained that it was begun in Rome, Italy in the mid 1950’s by Sofia Cavaletti and has been in use internationally since that time. Catechesis, as differentiated from Catechism is an experiential process in which adults and children labor together to listen and hear the voice of God in our midst and experience His presence.
The atrium is a place of retreat where children are presented with a series of lessons based on the parable of the Good Shepherd through which they come to know about the loving Person of God who cares and provides for each of us.
CGS combines religious experience and sensorial education in a Christ centered setting based on the Bible and oriented to the Liturgy. The atrium and its materials are provided to further the child’s relationship with God and to foster the growing awareness of the reality of the presence of God in their lives.
The advantage of using such a program in an Orthodox setting is that the child learns from a very early age to contemplate and experience an aspect of God inwardly. The CGS is built on the belief that God is already in conversation with the soul of the child. The environment and presentations are carefully designed for this purpose. The space is structured with child sized tables and shelves and hand crafted materials used first in demonstration and then by the children themselves.
Everything in the atrium is geared to children and guided by the liturgical cycle of the year.
Sofia Cavaletti started out not as a teacher of children but as a Hebrew scholar under the tutelage of Eugenio Zolli, a convert to Catholicism after being the chief Rabbi of Rome during WWII. In the words of Jerome Berryman, “In the Spring of 1954, a friend brought her seven-year old son to Cavaletti for some lessons about religion. The wonder of this event has never ceased to amaze Dr. Cavaletti. The deep joy of the child’s response to her opening the Bible and talking with him about God has been motivation for her unceasing search to know the deeper levels of the child’s knowledge of religion and the power of releasing that knowledge and insight.”
Through a Montessori teacher, Costa Gnocchi and then Gianna Gobbi, a great collaboration began as Cavaletti taught religion at the Montessori school at Palazzo Taverne in Rome. This work attracted so many children that they had to move to larger quarters. In 1957 Cavaletti was asked to give a paper at the Montessori International Congress in Rome. She then began to work internationally.
She has combined her scholarly and practical interests in biblical research and her work with children. She mastered the ancient languages of Greek, Latin and Hebrew as well as Italian, English, Spanish, French, German and others. In all humility this scholar has used her gifts to reach out to the least among us, who Christ said, make up the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is adaptable to every liturgically based Christian denomination. It is extremely adaptable to Orthodoxy, being the ancient church and the most liturgical of all. It also emphasizes contemplation and quietness of heart, which is at the center of Orthodox praxis and monastic life. It is a wonderful complement to The Law of God and other Orthodox catechism programs for children. Not only would CGS be an asset to any parish but a wonderful tool of evangelism for convert families, who are always looking for good church support for their home catechesis and moral training of the children.
I am so excited about the program and happy about your interest in it. I am looking forward to training to be a catechist myself and I’m sure the Lord will include many in this wonderful calling.
Love in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Your unworthy sister, Alice Anna