Friday, September 25, 2015

Notes from our September 20, 2015 session

Hello everyone!

Hope you have had a great week, and have been able to catch some of Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. on television or cable.  Did you know that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is also live streaming many of his appearances?  You can catch the live stream here:

What an exciting week it has been for the U.S., and how blessed we are to have a pope who really reaches out and touches the heart of people, regardless of their faith!

On to CGS news.  We had our second session last Sunday, and I loved seeing all those smiling faces!  A number of new children joined us.   I am overwhelmed with the wonderful response to this program, and so grateful to the Holy Spirit for guiding us as we take on this new endeavor.    Unfortunately, our group is now at capacity, so we need to close registrations for the 2015-16 year.  This saddens me; I wish I could engulf each and every child into the warm glow of the Good Shepherd!   I'm praying that next year, after we've tested out the program for a year, and everyone (catechists, parents, junior helpers, children) are more familiar with the program, that we will be able to include even more children in the group. 

If you know someone who is interested in the program for their children, please urge them to contact me.  I will be conducting at least a couple of sessions about how parents can implement the techniques of the CGS program into their everyday lives.  I will open these sessions to all parents who are interested, so that those whose children aren't in the program this year can begin doing some simple things at home to build the faith of their young children.

Last Sunday's activities:
We start each session with a variety of songs led by Mrs. Lauinger.  The children are quickly learning these songs!  Then, after all the children arrived, we continued
to work on our "grace and courtesy" lessons, especially introducing ourselves, greeting each other and saying good bye.  As you may notice, I ask each child to come to me and shake my hand before they leave at the end of the session.  For some of the littlest ones, this is a bit strange, but they will catch on eventually.  We will continue to work on "please," "thank you," "excuse me."   The idea is to create an environment of peace and calm in the atrium, and these little courtesies contribute to that environment.   

We also began working on some practical exercises, like using to use trays and getting materials. (When the room is all set up, the children will have time for individual work, so we want them to know how to get materials properly using the trays.)   

We spent time in our "atrium" space (Room 3), where we had our prayer service.  The children especially love singing the "Thank You, Lord" song and contributing their suggestions of things we should thank the Lord for.

This Sunday's activities:
We will sing our favorite songs with Mrs. Lauinger then continue working on our grace and courtesy lessons.  On the practical skills side, we will talk about using rugs for our material -- how to roll them, unroll them, walk around them if someone is working on a rug, etc.  Then we'll practice what we learn.  In our prayer corner, we will "enthrone" a beautiful Bible.  After snack, I'm hoping we have a chance to learn the "Shalom" song, which is the song that signifies the end of each CGS session.  I've been waiting to introduce it until we get into a routine. 

Check In/Check Out procedures:
I'm continuing to hone the check in/check out procedures. Beginning this week, please follow these steps:

Check in procedures: (when you bring your child to the PAR before Mass):

1) Go to the "Check In/Check Out" table and sign in your child on the Check In/Check Out sheet;
2) Take your child's name tag from the display on the table and put it on your child.  If you have two children, take the name tags for both children.
3) You can either walk with your child to Room 1&2, or one of the junior helpers will walk with them to the room

Check out procedures: (when you pick up your child after Mass):
1) Go to the "Check In/Check Out" table and sign out your child on the Check In/Check Out sheet
2) Take the card with your child's name on it from the display on the table and go to the door at Room 2, where a catechist will meet you.
3) The catechist will take the card, call your child's name and your child will come to the door, and you can then leave with your child.
 If you have two children, please take the name cards with both children's names

This procedure will be especially helpful to us, as we learn the names of your children, and as we get to know the parents!  

Please know that I may continue to hone these procedures as we go along to make them more efficient.

As always, I welcome your emails and questions!

Cheryl Basile

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Notes from our first session on September 13, 2015

Hello Parents!

As can be expected on the first day of anything new, it was a bit crazy and hectic today! We were very happy to meet all of you and begin to get acquainted with your lovely children!

There were a few tears at the beginning of the session from some children who didn’t want Mom or Dad to leave.  Don’t worry—this is quite natural!  Please know that you are welcome to stay as long as you want for these initial couple of weeks while your child gets familiar with us.  Eventually, they will be saying “it’s okay Mom/Dad, you can go to church now!” 

This week, the children, catechists and junior helpers spent a little time getting to know each other.  We learned some basic “grace and courtesy” lessons (like how to introduce yourself to someone new) and talked about how we should behave in the atrium.  We also prayed in our prayer corner for the first time.

We are gradually helping the children adjust from the noise and commotion of the outside world into the quiet of the atrium. Therefore, we will initially spend most of our time in the “narthex” or “gathering room,” learning grace and courtesy and a few practical skills.  When we are settled and in a quiet mood, we head over to our atrium for our prayer corner.  Then after prayer corner, we go back to our gathering room for snack.

Each week, we will increase the time in the atrium as the children adjust and understand the difference between how we act and speak in the gathering room, and how we act and speak in the atrium.  By differentiating these two spaces, children begin to learn how we act differently in sacred spaces (like church during Mass and the Adoration Chapel.)   

It really works!   When my son was three years old, I began taking him with me to the Adoration Chapel once a week for my Holy Hour.  He easily sat quietly for the entire hour. Sometimes he would say little prayers, sometimes draw, sometimes look at a children’s Bible or other faith books.  After the hour, he sometimes asked if we could stay longer. I know that he could handle this time because he was used to attending a CGS atrium each week for 1.5 hour sessions. Yes, he was a normal little boy filled with mischievous energy!  Once outside the Adoration Chapel we would head for a playground or a hike at a forest preserve so he could wear off that pent up energy!  

If you peek into our “atrium” space now, you will only see the rug we sit on, a couple of chairs, and our prayer table (with its green prayer cloth, Crucifix, candles, and Good Shepherd statue). To avoid overstimulating the children with too much new material, we set up the room simply at first.  Then, each week when I present them with new material, we will add that to the room. 

Now, I would like to introduce you to the wonderful team of people who will be working with your children each Sunday:

Cheryl Basile – head catechist and program director. I am a certified CGS catechist, having completed 90 hours of intensive training through the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I was a catechist at St. Barnabas’ atria for 8 years, in addition to teaching “traditional” catechism classes for two years at St. Joan of Arc and St. James the Apostle in Glen Ellyn. My two children attended St. Barnabas’ atrium from 3 years to age 12.  

Mary Lauinger – assistant to the program director, catechist and our song leader.  Mary has taught at SJA’s Sunday School program for several years.  She is now taking the national course so she can become a certified CGS catechist.

Christy Sharafinski – catechist.  Christy has been involved in a variety of ministries in the parish and school. She is trained in the CGS program and her two oldest children attended a CGS atrium.

Susan Szczerba  – catechist.  Susan is involved in various ministries at SJA and heard the call to help us with this new program for our little ones.

We also have several junior helpers who will be assisting us, including Maria B., Fiona B., Patrick B., Marlo L., Lizzie L., Alina S., Greg S., and Zoey S. 

In addition, Nancy Remar, who has directed the Sunday School program for many years, and Elisa Caligiuri, who is also involved with SJA’s religious education classes during the week, will be assisting us with administrative duties.

I am so blessed to have this wonderful team to help me bring this amazing program to your children!  When you see them, please thank them for volunteering their time and talents!

A few housekeeping items for this week:

1) Check In/Check Out
This week, we will begin having parents check in their children when they arrive, and check out when they pick up their children.  Please stop by the registration table to do this. (There will be a check in/check out form there.)

2) Please verify your contact information!
The registration table will also have a master list with each parents’ contact information (cell phone, email address, etc.)  Please review this to ensure that we have your correct information.

3) Parent Volunteers:
Thank you for completing the Volunteer Forms.  I am reviewing those forms and will get back to each of you soon.

4) Communication
Please feel free to drop me an email  (caswrite at aol dot com) any time you have a question.  There are a couple of other ways  you can also stay in touch with me:
Be sure to "like" our Facebook page!  I plan to use this as one of the main ways to reach out and keep you updated on the happenings within the atrium.
Yes, we have a blog too! (This one!)  Another good way to stay updated on what your children are learning in the atrium and see photos of them while they work with the materials.  I will also post links to interesting articles about raising your child in the Catholic faith and parenting young children in general.

Looking forward to taking this wonderful journey with your children!

Cheryl Basile