The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

WHEN:  Level 1 Atrium (ages 4 – 6) on Tuesday mornings from 10 – 11:30 AM, and Tuesday afternoons from 1:00 – 2:30 PM.  Level 3 Atrium (ages 9 – 12) on January 5th, Wednesday afternoons from 1 – 2:45 PM.

View the Level 1 Atrium calendar.

View the Level 3 Atrium calendar.

View the Atrium handbook.

WHERE:  St. Michael’s Junior School building (the first right turn from St. Michael’s Lane).

Atrium Details

ATRIUM BEHAVIOR:  Following the discretion of the catechist or assistant, if a child hurts another person in the Atrium (by hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, scratching, etc.,) we will ask that the child skip the next week of Atrium.  This is to cultivate an atmosphere of respect in the Atrium.  If this happens a second time, the child will be asked to wait until the following year before returning.

ILLNESS and ABSENCES:  Please keep children who are sick at home until they recover.  In the event of an illness or absence, we are unable to let children make up Atrium sessions on other days in order to keep consistency with each session.

We follow Fairfax County’s School Policy for inclement weather or emergency closures and delays. If Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) close, the Atrium is closed. If FCPS are delayed, the Atrium is open and on time.

ARRIVAL:  On-time arrivals are essential so that you do not disrupt group presentations given at the beginning of Atrium.  If late arrivals become habitual (more than 3 times), the catechist will discuss an alternative plan for your child.  Before arriving at the Atrium, please be sure children have eaten a well- balanced meal and have gone to the bathroom.  Since the Atrium is a reverent environment, like a church, please encourage your children to use their Atrium voice and Atrium walk when entering.  Toys from home are not permitted in the Atrium.

DISMISSAL:  At the end of Atrium, the children gather around the prayer table to listen to the Word of God, pray and sing.  When Atrium is over, children are called by name to line up for dismissal. Children will only be released to designated persons authorized by parents or legal guardians.  If you arrive late, your child will wait for you in the Atrium.  In the best interest of your children and catechists, please be prompt in collecting your child.

A Scene From the Atrium

The children are gathered around the catechist who gives a brief introduction to the scriptural story, recalling something the children already knows about Jesus (lifting up any words that may be unfamiliar to the children).  Then a candle is lit and the solemn reading of the scripture takes place.  The catechist might ask, “What did we hear in this scripture?”  At this point the material is introduced.  “This is the sheepfold.”  (It is placed on the table.)  “This is the Good Shepherd.  These are the sheep.”  The catechist reads the parable again, moving the material with very simple movements:  placing the sheep in the sheepfold, the shepherd calling them out, the shepherd going ahead of them, the sheep following.

The second narration is followed by the catechist posing a few, open-ended questions:  i.e., “I wonder how far the Good Shepherd’s voice can be heard?” or “I wonder how the Good Shepherd knows each sheep by name?”  The catechist invites a prayer response from the heart of the child.  (There are other moments when the catechist begins to introduce formal prayers.)

The catechist shows the children how to gently put the materials away and where the materials are stored so that they can choose this work for themselves during their individual work time.  The expectation is always to return materials to their place ready for the next person.  It is in this work time after much repetition where the child comes to know the scripture passage by heart.

It is with this text that the children are introduced into the mystery of the person of Christ.  It is primarily the children’s responses that account for the choice of this parable.  The children work repeatedly with this material, moving it in their own way as they appropriate its truth.

(from The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in a Parish Setting, Tina Lillig)