There are some terms used regularly in the Catechesis that may be new to you.  Becoming familiar with these words will make it easier to understand the work being done in the Atrium.

Catechesis—This word was first used in the early Church.  It described the instruction people received in preparation for Baptism.  In our context, the Catechesis is the way that children become prepared to participate fully in Christian community.

Catechist—The Catechist is an adult who guides the children.  This person is not the teacher in the traditional sense.  Instead she prepares the space where God and the child can come together.  She creates materials, presents them to the child,  and then wonders with the child about God.

Atrium—The Atrium is another word from the early Church.  It was the name of the room-sized porch or entryway into the Church where people new to the faith were instructed for Baptism.  In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the Atrium is the room that is prepared for the children.  It is not a classroom.  Instead it is a place of religious experience, community, and worship.

Materials—There are many kinds of materials found in the Atrium.  They are often handmade, and are usually beautiful.  The most important thing about the materials is that they are closely linked to the Bible and Liturgy.  Children work with the materials to meditate on the stories of our faith, and to reflect the traditions of our worship. 

Examples of materials found in the Atrium include small clay figures of Mary and the Angel for the Annunciation, water, yeast and flour for the Parable of the Leaven, and a small Baptismal font and Paschal candle to explore Holy Baptism.

Presentation—A presentation is made by the Catechist for the children.  The Word of God is proclaimed through a scripture reading or a description of an aspect of the Liturgy, and a demonstration of how to use the associated materials.

Work—This is a Montessori term for the child’s use of the materials.  Different than play, working with the materials is the job of the child, the way that he or she delves deeply into biblical story and liturgy.