Catechists encourage children to draw closer to Christ the Good Shepherd through hands-on activities in the atrium.
Catechists encourage children to draw closer to Christ the Good Shepherd through hands-on, prayerful  activities in the atrium.

SCOTTSDALE — The National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd opened its national office Aug 24 at the parish life center located at Our Lady of Perpetual Church in Scottsdale.

For more than 60 years, children have been nurtured in their relationship with God through the prayerful encounters they experience through the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Based on the Montessori model of education and principles developed by CGS founders, Dr. Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi, children hear the word of God in an environment centered on the Eucharist and the liturgical life of the Church.

Many parishes throughout the United States and around the world invite children into a deeper relationship with God through CGS. The new national office in Scottsdale will be a provide space for the daily support of catechists, parents and others in the Church and beyond.

Mary Mirrione, national director of CGS, has been involved with the program since 1991 when she was the director of religious education at St. Anne Parish in Gilbert. The pastor at the time, Fr. Doug Lorig, learned about CGS and sent Mirrione for formation. Since that time, she’s been involved as a catechist and director of religious education as well as a trainer of other catechists.

In the last few years, Mirrione said, the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation of religious sisters begun by Blessed Mother Teresa, have embraced CGS. Mirrione has traveled to Calcutta three times to form sisters in the catechetical program.

“We are overjoyed that we have found a home for the national office here in Scottsdale,” Mirrione said. “Through the work of Fr. Greg Schlarb and the gifts of several generous donors, we have been literally given ‘an upstairs room that is spacious and furnished,’ and we are very grateful.”

The national office is already busy preparing to welcome 550 catechists from 18 countries for an Oct. 1-4 conference to be held at the Black Canyon Conference Center in Phoenix. The conference will be an occasion to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the CGS.

Deacon Jeff Arner, director of religious education at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Havasu City, has watched children’s spiritual development blossom as they experience formation in the CGS. He’s also had level one and level two training as a CGS catechist.

IMG_8152“I believe it’s the hands-on experience the children have, being able to use all their senses in learning about our faith, what happens at Mass and how they can incorporate everything into prayer,” Deacon Arner said. “That really helps that they get into the heartbeat of what the Church is and the liturgical season.”

Some 60 children in the parish are learning the faith in the atrium and Deacon Arner said he believes CGS is a unique method to form kids in the faith.

“They get to enter into it fully like we do at Mass when we participate fully,” Deacon Arner said. “I believe they do that fully within the atrium.”

CGSUSA has published more than 74 books, journals and articles, and trained over 160 formation leaders around the country. Today, there are over 1,025 atria operating in this country, serving thousands of children in parishes, homes and schools.