The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a program to teach catechesis to kids from 18-months-old to middle school in a hands-on way. Several Regnum Christi schools use this, and several Regnum Christi members run it in their local parishes.
Sheila, who helps run a group at St. Albert the Great Parish in Calgary, Canada, spoke about how she got interested in the program while watching another woman run it, and became involved with it herself soon after. She was impressed by how engaged the preschool kids were. She explained, “It was so hands-on for the children. They have things they can hold rather than being told ‘stand up here, read this, and do this coloring page.’ There were hands-on 3-D items for them to hold. And also, it is so well-researched, so we aren’t teaching things too far ahead or too far behind of where a child should be at that time.”
Sheila and Barb Moroney run the group. Each of them also has a daughter who teaches Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. One of the moms of a child in the program, Amanda Reid, spoke about how her 5-year-old has experienced the program over the past year and a half, “He’s learned all about the parts of the Mass, and he’s grown to appreciate praying more. Overall, it’s a good experience.” Amanda continued talking about her son: “He looks forward to going and will sing some of the songs from it when he gets home.” She noted that her son had learned some words such as ‘priests’ vestments’ that she didn’t even know.
Trisha Quilici helps run the program at Canyon Heights Academy, near San Jose. She was excited that they were expanding the program to include 6th grade this year. The most significant innovation she sees is how the program helps kids discover things on their own rather than in a more formal teaching style.
Trisha explained, “We never tell them that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The beauty of the Montessori method is that we want the children to make that connection. It’s such an ‘aha’ moment when the children realize that Jesus is the Shepherd and they are the sheep, and how they are protected by the Good Shepherd. The program leads them to this, and it is a lifelong lesson. If they can know and trust the Good Shepherd at such a young age, that is a seed that’s going to be in their soul forever.” She continued talking about children discovering things on their own, “If you teach a child something they may get it, but the process of discovering for themselves and learning it on their own – that lesson will last a lifetime. They will forget something I tell them, but they won’t forget what they learn themselves.”
Sheila felt the CGS program she ran was really well adapted for preschoolers, “They really talk about what kids need at ages 3-6: to know the Good Shepherd as someone who loves them and knows them and cares for them. But you don’t read the part of Psalm 23 where they talk about the stranger coming in; you focus on, ‘he leads them and calls them by name,’ and he wants them. It really felt like it called to the kids. When you see these kids, you know that they really get it.”
Sheila used the Last Supper as an example of how the program works. They first break the Easterstory into parts and learn one part at a time. Then, when they get to the Last Supper, they used peg dolls to represent each of the apostles and move them around.
The CGS program meetings are two hours long, and Sheila said that in her first year, it took her four hours to prepare for each one, but her preparation time is going down with experience.
Several other Regnum Christi members and schools run the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, including Pinecrest Academy, near Atlanta.