Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?


#1

My daughter's pre-school will be using "The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd" this year as the faith formation curriculum. I have never heard of it. The school provided a general description of the program but not many details.

Has anyone out ther heard of this or had it used in your children's school? If so, I would like to hear what your thoughts are about it; pro or con.

Please be specific if you can. "It's great" or "it stinks" comments are not very helpful.

Thank you for your help.


#2

They have a website here:
Catechisis of the Good Shepherd

They have Catholic origins, but the programme is "Ecumenical" - Is your daughter at a Catholic pre-School or an ecumenical one? if catholic, are thy modifying the CGS to be more Catholic is it's content? (i.e. not removing the role of Mary & the Saints, not ignoring the Real Presence in the Eucharist or the authority of the Magisterium etc....

As a teaching method it's based on Montessori which is a respected if sometimes controversial technique, which requires a high ratio of teachers to students. if that ratio cannot be met, the programme will not work as successfully.


#3

It is a very Catholic program–depending on who is teaching it. My son attended last year at our parish and really liked it. We’ll continue this year. At some point I will probably be trained, but I just don’t have the time right now.

It’s a Montessori method—children learn real life skills, pouring, sorting, polishing, cleaning up, along with prayers, quiet time, liturgical year/colors, and so on.


#4

My two children attend CGS twice a week - on Wednesdays at school (Catholic PreK3 and PreK4 program), and again on Sundays at our parish. I’m sorry I can’t add to what others have posted as to what all the program entails, but I can say it is a good program, and my kids enjoy it tremendously. I don’t know, nor have I heard, any “cons” to the program.


#5

My parish has had CGS for few years. I went into the training skeptical - I'm now certified in Level 1 (3-6yos) and I am still skeptical.

Basically it works like this:
1) It is meant to be a very controlled environment set up specifically for the needs of that age group.
2) The children are given presentations meant to spark the wonderment of the child. For example, the Good Shepherd presentation has several parts shown one at a time with several weeks in between presentations spread out over three years. It is meant to allow the child to grow in his relationship with Jesus the Good Shepherd - that He will always take care of us, that He will seek us if we're lost, that He invites us to His table at Mass, that He is really present at Mass etc.
3) All this through the child seeing simple presentations and then being allowed to "work" with the wooden sheep and pasture. The work is quiet time with the material meant to allow the Holy Spirit to speak directly to the child.
4) All except practical life presentations have "wondering with the child" parts where parts of the content the presentation is meant to convey are brought forth for the child's wonderment. For example, the catechist may say "I wonder how the lost sheep felt" and the children may respond. The catechist is never to say "the lost sheep felt scared" or make such a definite statement unless it is in the Scripture.
5) If the child has a misunderstanding it is up to the Holy Spirit to work out in His own time
6) The child needn't be able to convey/articulate anything he is learning or how he is growing in relationship with God

It all just looked like playing to me and I never saw any evidence that it was any more. The training really binds the catechist's hands. The catechist is to be very cautious about interfering with the Spirit. Which means if Johnny seems to be playing cops and robbers with the shepherd and sheep the catechist may not be entitled to step in. The catechist is never to tell the child how to "work" with the material.
If the child asks a question the catechist is to respond with an "I wonder" statement. For example, if a child asks "was the shepherd mad" the catechist is to respond "I wonder if the shepherd was mad" in a voice that (to me) sounds like the catechist knows nothing. And the catechist does the "I wonder" thing constantly - seriously in the training it got to the point where we joked that if a child asked "where's the bathroom" you'd have to respond "I wonder where the bathroom is" so as not to cramp the Spirit reveling it to the child.
The child is also free to "work" with any material which he/she has seen the presentation for. Which means she may just go to the same thing every session but that's okay because the Spirit is working. Except that I've seen children gravitate to the "practical life" materials which are nothing more than busy work (meaning time killers - something to keep the child quiet). There are atria out there with little more than practical life material - stuff that is all well and good for a young child to be working on (fine motor skills and such) but have nothing to do with religious education.
There is no way whatsoever to check whether the child is understanding anything. Each presentation has a direct aim but I've seen presentations where that direct aim is not remotely achieved. Again, a catechist can never correct a child. There are geography presentation and if the child is putting things in the wrong spot - even if it's part of a second presentation that builds on the first - the catechist cannot correct the child.

CGS is suppose to be wonderful. There is supposedly evidence that children grow hugely in their relationship with and knowledge of God. But I have never seen any such evidence. I've seen kids messing about. I've seen kids I gauge to be confused and/or too scared/polite to speak up. I've seen catechists get very different responses than they were prepared for and have no clue what to do (for example for a "I am the vine" presentation the children were basically tearing the plant apart rather than holding it gently and understanding that they are connected to God).

Training takes 90+ hours and $600 per catechist per Level. And must be done in order (Level I then II then III) even if you are a 6th grade catechist who never has anything to do with younger kids. The materials are expensive and time consuming because they are meant to be beautiful and hand made. The books for the catechists to read are expensive. There are all sorts of bags, stamps, and such with the Good Shepherd logo for tons of money. It seems like a money maker to me. My diocese approves of the program but has also admitted to me that the group who makes the approval doesn't really know about the program and is basically going off the word of one person.

I don't like it. I think at best it is usually a waste of time and at worst it is an actual hindrance to the child's growth. I am a DRE and I have no intention of introducing it in my (work) parish if only because of the cost. I'm not all for book work but I think this goes too far the other way. The Holy Spirit does amazing things but expecting Him to revel such mysteries without guiding the child as we are entrusted to do just doesn't make sense. In other words - does the Spirit work in the lives of and speak to children? Absolutely. Does the Spirit revel intricate details of a parable to a child simply by having a catechist read the words to them and move little wooden figures? I'm not convinced.

I gave it an honest, prayerful, dedicated try. But I'm simply not convinced even after 90+ hours of training, hours of observation, reading, and discussing.
If there is anything else I can tell you or answer for you, I'd be happy to.
Hope this helps. Christ's peace be with you.


#6

You remind me of another point I meant to make.

I’m not convinced the program is doctrinally sound. As I said, my diocese approves but admit to not really knowing. And there is no text to check. Presentations are given from the catechist’s personal collection of “album pages” written during training. There is no way to check whether the presentations go off on a misconception or even heresy. Changes must be made to some parts - songs especially - to make it Catholic. Some of the presentations use wording I was not comfortable with. The “Eucharistic Presence of the Good Shepherd” is one of those I strongly disagreed with the wording. It is subtle but it is all the more dangerous in being wrong for it’s subtleness. And Level II doesn’t ever cover the Consecration - it is a First Eucharist and First Reconciliation preparation program and is missing very key content.

If it is done in a none Catholic setting my advice would be: run. No joke. It may be beneficial when handled by loving caring Catholic catechists but it would do more harm than good if ecumenical or non-Catholic.


#7

We have the CGS in our parish. In my opinion (for what its worth) it is a good program and teaches the children with a hands on method. We use CGS for children leading up to First Communion. At one time we went beyond that but decided that it worked best for the younger children. I helped build some of the furniture the children use for their “alter”.

I’ve not heard of the teacher’s not being able to “teach” or being prevented from keeping control of the class. If that is the case our teachers are learning a method much different than one Mel Stones speaks of.

Our religious education director monitors the classes and ensures it is sound and in accordance with Catholic Doctrine. That was not the case when the program first started in our parish.

That being said there are some “extra’s” that are not greatly appreciated by parents. There is the three day sabbatical before First Communion and the limitation on the cloths that the children wear at First Communion. The first couple of years we had huge issues with the head of the program as she claimed she was teaching it as it had to be taught and she refused to alter the program for any reason. If the children wanted to have their First Communion they had to miss school for two days, parent were not supposed to observe the classrooms. Eventually everyone tired of her and she was “relieved” of her duties. A few parents acted as if we had removed the Pope. After she left the program was altered (as allowed) to accommodate specific requests of parents and it seems to operate much better now.


#8

Thanks for everyone's responses.

In reply to one poster's question, my daughter is in a Catholic pre-school. She in in the 4 year old class.


#9

[quote="SamH, post:7, topic:254560"]
We have the CGS in our parish. In my opinion (for what its worth) it is a good program and teaches the children with a hands on method. We use CGS for children leading up to First Communion. At one time we went beyond that but decided that it worked best for the younger children. I helped build some of the furniture the children use for their "alter".

I've not heard of the teacher's not being able to "teach" or being prevented from keeping control of the class. If that is the case our teachers are learning a method much different than one Mel Stones speaks of.

Our religious education director monitors the classes and ensures it is sound and in accordance with Catholic Doctrine. That was not the case when the program first started in our parish.

That being said there are some "extra's" that are not greatly appreciated by parents. There is the three day sabbatical before First Communion and the limitation on the cloths that the children wear at First Communion. The first couple of years we had huge issues with the head of the program as she claimed she was teaching it as it had to be taught and she refused to alter the program for any reason. If the children wanted to have their First Communion they had to miss school for two days, parent were not supposed to observe the classrooms. Eventually everyone tired of her and she was "relieved" of her duties. A few parents acted as if we had removed the Pope. After she left the program was altered (as allowed) to accommodate specific requests of parents and it seems to operate much better now.

[/quote]

I know from my own training - which I admit can vary but is claimed not to - that changing the program is forbidden. Many have made some changes out of necessity but some still insist nothing changes. And with every batch of new Level I trained catechists there will be a few that, at least at first, are strict about sticking to things exactly. Again, there is the issue of there being no text to consult - Each training will vary and therefore there is one more level of variation in actual implementation. But no matter what, 90 hours is a long time to have points pounded into a trainee and I know the "you aren't teaching" is in every training.


#10

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd started with an intention to be orthodox. The main creator is a contributor to the CCC and assistant to Eugenio Zoli and I believe, introduced him to her uncle Pope Pius XII. But like most things, if it is not done well it will atrophy and metamorphosis into something different.

One sign of its orthodoxy is its focal point on scripture and liturgy. These two things are considered the essential teaching elements and all lessons are somehow geared to bringing the child closer to them and thereby allowing the child to have better than a superficial grasp of them.

Also, it is aimed at eliminating practical problems that children often encounter. Starting with mastery of self (kids are not to run amuck and use the works for imagination play, that said, I can say the method of correction and redirection does require a certain gentle nature that is rare but if you are lucky to have an experienced director, it is an impressive thing.) The other practical issues are nomenclature, being capable of handling and manipulating delicate and precious things, being able to enjoy silence with them. This allows the child to be versed in the language of signs, the language of scripture and liturgy.

At its core, it brings the child to a recognition of gifts, these gifts are responded to with joy, admiration and other responses. This gift/response pattern is found on in many layers of the mass and in fact the whole mass itself...go you are sent is the prompt we get "ita missa set"

Getting a good catechist trainer is tricky. I wish a new catholic only organization would form because they are a confused bunch with no spiritual direction. This is not to say that the Dominican or Nashville, or the Sisters of Charity (who are using the method) are not getting what they need, rather that we must always be careful about who forms us. Read St. Agustine On the Teacher.

No time to proof read, my own atrium starts in 20 min.


#11

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