Experiencing the Good Shepherd

The catechists present works to the child ranging from practical life works to works around the Mass and selected Scripture readings.

Jun 02, 2023

                                            The mustard seed journeys - Joanne Wong

I recently attended a five-and-a-half-day formation for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) and though I was hesitant to attend at first, I am glad that I did.

Now before I share more about my experience at the CGS formation, for those of you who are unfamiliar, CGS is a Montessori approach to faith formation that is profoundly biblical, sacramental and prayerful.

CGS takes place in the Atrium, a spiritual space for children to discover, listen and enter into a relationship with God. The purpose of the catechesis is to introduce the child to God through the Scriptures, the prayers of the Liturgy, and the Sacraments.

The catechists present works to the child ranging from practical life works to works around the Mass and selected Scripture readings. The catechists observe how they can serve the child because, in the Atrium, God and the Holy Spirit are the teachers and they are led by the child. The children do not play in the Atrium but instead, they work on the materials presented by the catechists in a meditative and thoughtful manner allowing them the opportunity to wonder and be open to experience a sense of awe around the greatness and mystery of God.

My youngest daughter Eleanor Hope is part of the first batch of children in the Chapel of Kristus Aman to attend CGS. It’s been less than a year since CGS started and I have noticed her paying attention to what the priest does during the Eucharist, I hear her speak more about Jesus and, at times, she randomly shares the things she has been introduced to in the Atrium. At three and a half years old, I think it’s a wonderful way for her to start building her relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Now at the formation, the catechists introduced us to the different presentations for the Level 1, Part 1 children (children aged three to six). We got to spend time in the Atrium doing the work just like the children would. Imagine grown men and women on child sized wooden Ikea tables and chairs or on mats hunkered down working on folding, painting, making prayer cards, working on the good shepherd materials, learning about the different coloured vestments, setting up a mini altar table and more.

The catechists also presented the work to us as if we were children, speaking to us in very soft voices and in a very slow, unhurried pace. We were not used to this slow pace. Most of us were used to doing everything fast, our lives were filled with distractions and many a to-do list, with words like “Quick. Hurry up. Don’t walk like a snail. Faster-ah. Aiyoh, so slow I do for you”, a part of our everyday vocabulary. So, it was rather unnatural for us to experience what it felt like to be a child in the Atrium.

However, when the fourth day rolled around, a large majority of us had slowed down. We had gotten used to the “Atrium voice”, we did things slower, more carefully. We were less harassed and hurried.

In the Atrium, I sat crouched down scooping beans one at a time, from one ceramic bowl to another using a ceramic soup spoon. I had the luxury of time to just focus on the motion of scooping the beans, just being present in the moment. I wiped leaves, set up the altar table, re-enacted the Last Supper, learnt about the different coloured vestments used by the priests, painted a mustard tree, prayed, sang and more – all done unhurriedly in a mindful state.

Needless to say, a lot of us were moved by CGS and the amazing potential it held for children. For cradle Catholics like me, it was, in a way, to relearn parts of our faith, a chance to reencounter God and enjoy His presence. And really, if we were feeling this, what about the child we asked? What an awesome, firm foundation it would be for them. What fertile soil would these little seeds of CGS be planted in. How we wished that all children had the opportunity to experience CGS. What a difference it would make for all them.

Indeed, the Good Shepherd calls us all by name and invites us to draw closer to Him. In the quiet moments of contemplation and stillness, He will reveal Himself and provide peace and respite as if we were lying down in green pastures besides quiet refreshing waters. And it is at the Atrium that I found this peace in my heart. My mind, which on normal days would fret and flit to many different things was still and focused. I felt an acceptance and a feeling of knowing that this was where I belonged and what I am called to do in this season.

Here are the top five things I learnt at the formation:

1) My faith journey is never ending and that I am never too old to learn more about God and ponder over His mysteries
2) We are all entrusted to care for God’s children, it is our role to plant little mustard seeds in each of them so that their foundations may be strong.

3) We need to speak to children about God, to make the announcement and the proclamation of who He is and to help them fall in love with God.

4) The wonder of God and His teachings can only be revealed when we pause, when are unhurried and when we set aside time to ponder and listen.

5) CGS is a blessing for the Catholic Church – not only for the children, but for the parents and catechists that are a part of it.

So dear readers, after encountering this peace which only God can provide, I have taken the first step to offer up my time and gifts while continuing to build my faith, by saying “yes” to becoming a CGS catechist. I pray that the Holy Spirit will use my heart and hands to serve each child I meet.

(“Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea”. Joanne Wong is on a journey towards having faith the size of a mustard seed. She is happy to connect and share favourite worship songs or app recommendations. Do email her at joanne.wpm@gmail.com)

Total Comments:1

Praise the Lord that you said yes to become a CGS catechist. You are a reflection of the way Mother Mary said yes. May God shower His blessings upon you.