“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Mt 19:14
St. John Paul II Catholic Schools is expanding its religious programing at the Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten level. Coming this fall (2022) we will be offering The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program at Nativity and Trinity Elementary Schools for ages 4-6. Holy Spirit School has been using this program in Little Deacons and Pre-Kindergarten programs for the past three years.
Education in Virtue is a program for children Little Deacons through eighth grade to grow in virtues and see the virtues as concrete expressions of their Catholic faith. It is an interactive program and curriculum structured on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the virtue and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The program was developed by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is designed so that the entire student body, LDs through grade 8, is studying the same virtue each week, to provide a whole school and home focus. The program covers 38 virtues over the course of a year.
Each week Little Deacons through grade 8 students learn about the same virtue along with Saints who exemplify the virtue. Everyday time is dedicated to Education in Virtue through prayer, role-playing, modeling, and the saints. Although the virtue is covered with more depth in the upper grades, the same definitions for each virtue are used at all grade levels so the students become familiar with the particular meaning of each virtue. Students will learn about and how to live out the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, as well as many related virtues. Teaching will include a breakdown of each virtue into know it, guard it, pray it, and live it.
We are all called to be disciples of Christ. In the school setting, the call to discipleship is extended not only to students but to administration, teachers, support staff, and parents. It is through the Education in Virtue the language of the virtues will be integrated into all facets of daily school life. School staff will work with children on virtuous behavior and explicitly teach the children to be the best version of themselves.
CGS helps children enter into and deepen their relationship with God. The religious values of contemplation, enjoyment of God, and personal relationship are fostered in a specially prepared environment called the Atrium. Children become part of a community in the Atrium, the space created just for them, dedicated to their collective work and prayer. Through discovery, play (work), and contemplation, children come to know God.
There is a focus on essentiality versus overstimulation in the Atrium and within the “catechetical” presentations and materials. The environment of the Atrium is quiet and respectful. The children are presented with short scripture passages, directly from the Bible, which they ponder with the trained adult Catechist. The most essential moments of the Liturgy are highlighted to the children and the materials presented closely represent those found in the Church. After the children are presented with scripture or liturgy materials, they are invited to “work” with the materials which leads them to internalize and contemplate what they have heard. Children become connected to Scripture and Liturgy as they work each week in the Atrium.
“In the Atrium, I am not the teacher. I am simply on a journey with a room full of quiet listeners. Their precious ears hear the Holy Spirit and He burns that knowledge in their hearts.”Shawn HagstromCatechist in Little Deacons (ages 3-4) at Holy Spirit School.
THE FAITH OF A CHILD
One of the Little Deacons exclaimed, “Look Mrs. Hagstrom. That’s me and my mom. Look how much she loves me! She is holding me so close.”
Mrs. Hagstrom explained, “I looked at the representation that I had seen so many times before in the Atrium and realized that I never comprehended it. He saw a truth that was hidden from me. Yes, he knew the woman was Mary with Jesus in her lap, but the masterpiece told a much deeper story of unconditional love.” Mrs. Hagstrom further explained, “Each visit to the atrium is full of stories such as this. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd method is a gift, to the children, to the adults beside them, and to our schools. I am so thankful for being able to hear God’s voice through these small children.”