Diocesan News

Preschool program growing in Lincoln Diocese

LINCOLN (SNR) – St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln will hold sessions in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd formation course for preschoolers this fall.

The catechetical program, started in 1954, is offered in 37 nations. In the Diocese of Lincoln, it has been used for years at St. Leo Parish in Palmyra, and Blessed Sacrament Parish in Lincoln.

Created specifically for children ages 3 to 6, CGS is a hands-on children’s faith formation program in which children grow in their relationship with God through scripture and liturgy in a Montessori-style learning environment. Founded on the principle that children are naturally inclined toward a relationship with God, CGS focuses on using particular materials and an environment that encourages the children to encounter Christ through meditation and prayer.

“Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an excellent program, and a great preparation for CCD and our Catholic schools,” said Father Andrew Heaslip, director of religious education for the Diocese of Lincoln.

“The Montessori method and the pedagogy of CGS, particularly its way of teaching scripture and the liturgy, has several elements which are of real value for the thorough and complete catechesis that children will receive later,” he said. But, “the earlier children realize the love Jesus has for them, the better!”

While many parents in the Diocese of Lincoln are unfamiliar with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), those who have experienced the program firsthand spoke of its ability to bring people, both children and adults, into deeper communion and intimacy with Jesus.

Beth Ruhl’s preschooler recently participated in the CGS program at Blessed Sacrament.

“Everything I learn about this program makes me want to share it with as many people as possible,” she said. “The way the environment is prepared for the child, and how the child responds, is incredible to witness.”

Tiffany Burton has also witnessed the effects of CGS.

“It was amazing to me that my young nephews, who normally are very active, are incredibly reverent and calm the moment they walk into church,” she said. “They know the church is a special place where they listen for Jesus to speak to their hearts.”

A growing awareness of the benefits of CGS, coupled with a desire for catechesis for preschoolers, inspired a group of young mothers in the area to invest more than 90 hours of formation to become certified to teach CGS.

Theresa Johnson, who is trained in three levels of the program and has almost 20 years of experience, is one of the leaders training the women. The first half of the training was completed this summer, in order to begin the program  at St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln this September.

Registration is open to children from all parishes. Sessions will meet weekly for 90 minutes during the school year and consist of a presentation of new material, work time, and prayer. 

Solely run by volunteers, CGS volunteer opportunities include serving as trained catechists, assistants in the atrium, set-up and tear-down help, nursery care, and support of catechists in material preparation.

The atrium – the room where the children work with materials while they are read the Scripture – will include a child-size altar, liturgical vestments in each of the liturgical colors, and similar items. There are dozens of other works to help the children enter into lessons. For example, for the Annunciation, the child has a small house to represent Mary’s house, and small figures of Mary, the angel Gabriel, and a dove for the Holy Spirit.

Anyone desiring to learn more about CGS is welcome to join the St. Teresa Christian Mothers group at their meeting after the 8:15 a.m. Mass Aug. 10, in the basement of St. Teresa Church. The group will host trained catechists Sisters Teresa Marie and Joan Paul of the School Sisters of Christ the King, who have facilitated the program with young children in the diocesan schools.

More information and registration forms for the upcoming CGS program can be found on the St. Teresa parish website, www.thelittleflower-lincoln.com.

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