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.