This Sunday will be the first session of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) at St. Brigid's Catholic Church in Memphis, TN. I have had nothing to do with the planning, assembling, and setup of the Atrium (the room where the Catechesis is taught), I just happening to show up along the way and said, "Hey, can I get in on this?"
Late last summer my family decided to go to Mass at a different parish, sometimes a change is good. We had been floundering a bit at our parish, me especially. Mass at this new parish was lovely and reverent and then, at the end of the Mass, the pastor announced that CGS would be starting up in a few months. I had to contain my scream of excitement! My son would be three by the time the Atrium opened. I was elated and quickly asked my husband if he would mind if I volunteered with the program. Being that he's awesome, he said I should do it. And, before we had even talked about it, my husband grabbed a parish census form so we could join. "I figured," he said, "it was a done deal."
It has taken a little bit longer to get the Atrium together than hoped, but it's finally starting. It has been over 10 years since I have had the chance to work in an Atrium. Yesterday I met with the other two catechists who are newbies and I got a chance to walk around the Atrium. We will have about 28 children in the Atrium at one time - that's a lot! There are plenty of questions to be worked out, but I can't wait for Sunday morning.
The role of the catechist is serious and important. We don't watch movies or color cheesy pictures of Jesus. You can't just volunteer to be a catechist; you have to complete the CGS training. The children learn about the chasubles (the robes worn by the priest), the chalice and paten (used by the priest during consecration), the liturgical colors and calendar, the Good Shepherd, and the altar just to name a few things. The catechist helps to form the child to participate at the Mass - even at three years old.
It's hard to explain what an Atrium is like, you just have to see it (I'm hoping to get pictures up in a few weeks). Everything is at the level of a small child. Everything is smaller than child-size. The Atrium is not a nursery or a play area; it is the workspace of the child and the work is to encounter God. As the catechist, my job is to journey along with the children to meet God. I'm a fellow Catholic Christian seeking the Good Shepherd who knows me by name.
It is a very beautiful place. It's a mini Kingdom of God.