CARA and Weaving Our Gifts: Practical CGS Research by Catechists & A Conference of Catechists Sharing our Wisdom and Experience

CCT in Context August 2019 by Catherine Maresca

My friends, YOU are the practitioners that know the questions and practices we need to consider carefully, YOU have the settings and children in which these questions can be researched, and YOU can help to do this in an effective way with CARA – Catechist Action Research Alliance. Your discoveries, along with your wisdom and experience can be shared with catechists at Weaving Our Gifts

In October CARA and Weaving Our Gifts will convene back to back. The first cohort of CARA will meet to continue their work with Dr. John Chattin-McNichols. John will then introduce CARA at the Thursday evening gathering of WG.

There are university researchers who study CGS, although much of this has been focused on adults in formation rather than on children. But what are the questions you, as a practitioner, need to address? Here are just a few of mine.

  • What difference does it make to 3-6-year-old children to present a parable reading from a Scripture booklet compared to from the Bible?
  • How engaged are children in the Level III typology material? Is there a better material to promote engagement?
  • How effective is starting the year in the Level I or II atrium with a focus on practical life for a month?
  • What is the work of the Level III child?

CARA offers an approach to these questions that yields some data to add to the intuition of our catechists that can guide our practices in the atrium and in catechist formation courses. Would you like to join us as a researcher, or as a data collection site guided by a researcher? Please let me know by writing to me at Would you like to support the growth of this research approach? Please donate to our appeal today.We need funds to support the launch of this first cohort, and to spread the practice going forward.

Weaving Our Gifts will be gathering for the ninth time in October, and the first time in Washington DC. We continue to keep expenses low, and hope that Washington is accessible to you by car, train or plane. We began with catechists from around North America (and Australia) at a time when there were no gatherings for catechists except courses and retreats. Weaving Our Gifts meets a need to be with colleagues with a strong commitment and service to children in the atrium, and provides a space for new adventures in CGS to percolate and be shared. The first toddler atrium was spread before us in 2004 by Edna Smith. Linda Allen shared adaptations to materials for children with disabilities beginning in 2002. The new typology material for CGS was first introduced at Weaving Our Gifts by a team led by Karen Maxwell in 2008. Hands on Faith began introducing interfaith materials for Level III children in 2010. Peg Burns has laid out materials to focus on Gospel Nonviolence at conferences since 2012. The History of Christianity Timeline by Carol Hanlon was first shared at Weaving Our Gifts in 2012. We have explored ways to dance, sing, sign, and pray with children. We have heard speakers that deepened out knowledge of Montessori, the integration of theology and science, the development of the child, our understanding of the Hebrew scriptures and more. 

This year Weaving Our Gifts promises to be just as rich. Our keynote speaker, Jennifer Morgan, will focus on the story of the universe to expand our own understanding of the story behind the Fettucciain her first keynote, offer a storytelling workshop on Saturday, and close the conference with a keynote linking the Cosmic story with our inner journey, “To Love in Communion with the Universe, God and the Child.” Dr. John Chattin-McNichols will introduce Teacher Action Research as used in Montessori settings and adapted for the atrium. Breakout session topics include Gospel nonviolence, contemplative prayer for catechists and children, Hands on Judaism, work with adolescents and toddlers, and much more. Please join us– we still have room, and the rich exchange of gifts increases with each of you. Donations to our Annual Appeal can also be directed to “Weaving Our Gifts financial aid” to keep Weavings as accessible as possible.

Please donate to our Annual Appeal today!

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