Children’s Religious Formation
At PAX (Pilgrims After Christ) we know that spiritual development is a lifelong journey. Children in PAX have a unique aid on that journey of falling in love with God. We are pleased to offer the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for all children from ages 3 to 12. The approach is based on the conviction that God and the Child are in relationship. Our role as adults is to protect and nurture this bond. In the Catechesis we present age-appropriate themes from the Bible and our liturgy with manipulative materials the children use to internalize and ponder the great mysteries of our faith.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Developed by Sofia Cavalletti, an Italian Hebrew scripture scholar, building on the work and methods of Maria Montessori, the Catechesis seeks to give children the guidance and vocabulary which enable them to become aware of their relationship with God and give expression to it. With the Catechesis we help each child to continue to fall in love with God while building community among peers.
Each level of the child’s work explores the fundamental theme of covenant, God’s call and our response, as reflected in the Bible and as lived in liturgy. At Level I the 3-6 year-olds have the capacity to receive and enjoy the most essential elements of our faith: the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, the announcement of God’s love given for us in the person of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. At Level II the 6-9 year-olds focus on the image of the True Vine, deepening their relationship with God, family, friends and the larger community as they prepare for and celebrate communion, broadening their understanding of Mass. At Level III 9-12 year-olds listen to the Old Testament, following the history of God’s plan for salvation, linking all people together in communion. They begin to ask, “What is the Reign of God, and what is my place in it?” It is a primary question which lays the foundation for a lifetime commitment to God.
Children need their own place to work with these essentials and many other key elements of our faith. This happens for two hours, on Saturday morning, in the “atrium.” Montessori coined this term recalling the part of the Early Christian church building where catechumens would gather in preparation to join the church. Our atrium is specially designed with child-sized furniture including a prayer table for gathering, a model altar, as well as materials to deepen their familiarity with more parables and the mass itself. After being presented with new material in a small group, children are free to choose work which particularly speaks to them to foster the growth of their own relationships with God.
The role of the adult in the atrium is secondary. It is the child’s own inner guide and teacher, the Holy Spirit, which directs the mind and heart. The importance of the catechist is to place materials within reach and share scripture which fills a particular longing at each stage in a child’s spiritual life. Amanda Messinger, an elementary Montessori teacher and catechist designed and maintains the PAX atrium, together with catechist Mike Messinger. Amanda has led catechesis at all three levels, in parish and after-school settings as well as PAX and is a formation leader for Level I.
Joining the Atrium
For children of PAX atrium is the special place and time for community building and experiencing church among peers. All are encouraged to attend. Parents are asked to complete a registration form and enclose a $50 check (to PAX- atrium fund). Please forward to Judy Schaeffer at PAX. Videos of a First Friday given at PAX by Rebekah Rojcewicz on the Spiritual Life of Children are available as a good introduction to the catechesis. Parents with questions or anyone interested in becoming involved in this work may contact us. (Local courses in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd are a theological and spiritual treat even for adults who have no plans for working with children.)
Journey to Adulthood (J2A)
After the atrium, teenagers participate in the Journey to Adulthood (J2A) program. J2A is a relational ministry where teens and adults journey into the mysteries of God together. Four meaningful rites of passages, including Confirmation, are celebrated. Teens plan and design their own holy pilgrimage. Our active J2A groups meet regularly for meaningful reflection, fellowship, and social works. Four main areas of study, each modeled on Jesus’ teachings and life, are Self-Esteem, Spirituality, Social Action, and Sexuality. Emphasis is placed on both celebration and responsibility. We celebrate the gifts of manhood and womanhood freely given by God, and the responsibility of adulthood which is earned. We do not currently have a J2A group meeting, but parents with questions or anyone interested in becoming involved in this work may contact us.