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CGS in South Africa

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Your help is needed in South Africa.  CGS is spreading there, thanks to the efforts of Sr. Annette St. Amour, IHM.  Please consider offering financial assistance or donating CGS publications and/or CGS materials.
South Africa Contact, Sr. Annette:

The Story of CGS in South Africa 2006
by Sr. Annette St.-Amour

The first seeds of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for South Africa began with observing a friend, Nancy Ayotte IHM in Saginaw, Michigan making materials for the children in her Atrium.

For many years Nancy and I have shared teaching and ministry ideas and there was much spirit shared when it came to talking about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.   Over a few years, when I visited the States, I listened to the stories of the children’s experiences, read the literature and visited the atrium in action in Saginaw.  In my role as Diocesan Catechetical Coordinator in Durban, South Africa, I often described the catechesis to anyone who might be interested.  It is a graced moment when someone responds with a willingness to take a few steps further.

That first person was Peter Ducray, a Parish Youth Minister and wonderful father of three young children.  I kept saying, “Your children will love this”.  Peter saw the interest his wife would have in this approach to the faith formation of their children and in creating the environment.  Before long, in April 1999, Peter planned some evenings of information and introduction to the CGS, inviting me to meet with some teachers of young children from the parish and deanery.   One Montessori teacher “caught the fire”. 

Trish Bassett, up to that time, had not been very involved in parish life, yet something of this sparked her interest.  Peter nourished her.  He had investigated the Association web page and through it made e-mail contact with Kate Collins of Washington DC area.  Kate was very generous in sharing her experiences and some initial Album pages so that we could get a sense of how to start.  Peter and Trish cleared a small storage room off of the Parish Hall and began filling it with a few shelves, small table, chairs and basic materials and invited young children to come.  This initial atrium began in Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Durban North just prior to Advent of 1999.

In June 2000, Trish went to the States to participate in the intense Level One Course offered by Kate Collins at Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center in Bethesda, Maryland.*  Kate waived the tuition and Jocelyn Bell graciously invited her to stay in her Bethesda home; parish and Diocesan support covered the enormous cost of airfare.  The most gracious and generous hospitality spurred Trish to take in not only the knowledge but also the generous and giving spirit inspired by the Catechesis.  Trish returned with new and refined understanding and with a sense of integrating faith belief and meaningful presentation.  Not only did the children in Trish’s atrium benefit but also sessions and demonstrations were offered to parish catechists and school Religious Education teachers in the Archdiocese of Durban.  Peter made a great effort to include the African rural parish communities so that this beautiful catechesis did not develop as the “blessing” for relatively affluent parishes only. 

Trish continued to develop the catechesis and the Atrium at Fatima parish by having a few women work with her.  Less than two years after beginning the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Trish and her family immigrated to Australia.   What a loss to us!  However, we were challenged to trust that if this was God’s work, the Good Shepherd would keep this “seed” alive.   We knew that we needed to have a qualified trainer come to South Africa, yet we did not have the resources to make that happen.  We were using everything we had just to buy some books, since the majority of our people could not afford them due to the high monetary exchange rates.  Thanks again to Kate Collins, who spread the word of our need, we received a donation from Anne Dryden’s Parish in Alexandria, Virginia and with that bought copies of The Religious Potential of the Child and The Good Shepherd and the Child: A Joyful Journey.  At least we could read and begin understanding the catechesis.

In July 2002, we were blessed with the presence of Nancy Ayotte IHM who came from Michigan and spent an intense five-weeks offering training not only in Durban but also week-long sessions in the dioceses of Johannesburg and Cape Town.  At least some catechists in the three main centers of the country were exposed to initial basic formation in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  At every center, it was inspiring to experience the mixture and sharing among the various racial groups who, in South Africa, did not often have the opportunity to come together in common catechetical training.  Participants from the courses wrote notes to Sofia Cavalletti expressing their awe and gratitude for this beautiful catechesis.  During the preparation for the course, we had invoked the intercession of Gianna Gobbi, who had died recently, to guide us in this venture.

The seeds were planted but nourishment and follow-up was still needed.  In Durban and Johannesburg, monthly workshop sessions were held for catechists to take turns doing one of the presentations, work on the album pages, share resources, theology background and at times make materials. Durban has both an English-speaking group and a Zulu-speaking group.  Anyone is welcome to either group.  However, it was important to develop the materials in the Zulu language and discover ways of creating inexpensive materials for the children and share possibilities of developing an atrium with few parish resources. 

In September 2004, we were blessed again with the presence of another accredited trainer, Laura Bastulli-Parran who accompanied her husband, who had come for a seminar with a group of doctors of Southern Africa.  Laura donated her service in a week-long course at Mariannhill in the Durban area.  There were about 50 participants who came from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and the Durban area.  Of these, about 23 had participated in the courses with Sr. Nancy in 2002.  Laura is returning in September 2005 to complete the Level One Course and to offer the beginnings of the Level Two Course for 6-9 Year Olds.

Our seedling – “Atriums” and catechists are tender but growing.  At this time, we have about 21 doing the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in South Africa.  There are 17 in the Durban Diocese, two in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town and one in Pretoria.  At present, eleven have a set Atrium at the parish.  Eight carry boxes of materials back and forth and two are in the catechists’ homes for the children in their area.  There is a variety in how they are developed.  Yet, we recognize the same Spirit guiding us to find the treasure of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd here in the soil of South Africa.  We thank the Association and friends who have inspired and supported us in bringing to birth this glorious work.

Recently we received several CGS publications from Kate Collins and her Bethesda, Maryland atrium community (books here are cost-prohibitive), and we await a package from Amy Kurz, a catechist and friend of Kate's from the mountains of Pennsylvania, who graciously offered to make us materials to use for models (04/14/06).

*In 2001, another catechist from South Africa, Angela Muldoon, was invited to stay with Jocelyn Bell and take Kate's level I course in Bethesda, Maryland.  She now resides near, but outside, Cape Town. 

Annette St-Amour IHM

Durban Diocesan Catechetical Coordinator

South Africa

Mailing Address:

       Sr Annette St-Amour

         Archdiocese of Durban 
         PO Box 47489
         Greyville  4023
         South Africa

         Archdiocese of Durban 
         PO Box 47489
         Greyville  4023
         South Africa

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