If we want to help the child grow near to God, we should, with patience and courage seek to go always closer to the vital nucleus of things. This requires study and prayer. The child himself will be our teacher if we know how to observe him.” Sofia Cavalletti
Sofia Cavalletti, along with her Montessori colleague, Gianna Gobbi, began to work with children in 1954 in the area of children’s religious formation. It began quite by accident, without warning or planning, the way God so often comes into our lives. In 1954 Sofia was a Hebrew and Scripture scholar, comfortable in her role in the academic world, when a mother asked her to give religious instruction to her son. At first Sofia refused, saying she knew nothing about children. The mother persisted and eventually, Sofia consented. That experience with a 7 year-old changed her whole life. She saw in that child and in numerous other children since, a way of being in the presence of God that is both unique to the child and a gift to the adult who stops long enough to notice. Perhaps it is because Sofia went before the child with no preconceived ideas of what should happen that the child responded with such joy. Certainly her background in Scripture made it possible for her to talk about God in a way that opened and enthused the child. From that day to the present time Sofia and Gianna remind us constantly to look to the child for that sign of a deeply religious life – joy – and to always ask the question: “What face of God is the child telling us he or she needs to see?”
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is grounded in an understanding that God and the child have a unique relationship with one another particularly before the age of six and that the growth of this relationship should be assisted by an adult, but is directed by the Spirit of God within the child. The religious needs and capacities of older children are no less great or essential from those of the younger children. Their religious potential is equally strong as they seek the presence of God in a tangible way. Children need their own place to foster that presence and the growth of that relationship.
For over twenty years, St. Peter’s has fostered that relationship in specially prepared atria, assisted by a loving and caring team of catechists and supported by the broader community of parishioners and clergy. At every Baptism, the community is asked, Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ? to which we respond, We will.
For more information on working with children or registering your children, please contact Anna Hurdle (firstname.lastname@example.org) or read more about our program here.