Equipping Parents for Life in the Sheepfold

For Davette Himes, the journey to CGS was through motherhood: “I didn’t want to be a catechist, I wanted to be a parent.” Davette, who developed atrium work with toddlers and their parents, now shares her work in CCTheo’s Parent Toddler Course, which will be offered online for the first time this summer. Her heart for supporting parents of very young children is rooted in her own search for such help when her children were toddlers. 

As a couple Davette and her husband, Douglas, were committed to nurturing their children as full members of a faith community that would give them a strong foundation and love for God. Douglas was the Sunday School teacher, and Davette was drafted to help him with the Children’s Chapel. With the affirmation that they would “with God’s help” bring up their children in the fullness of Christian community and the knowledge and love of Christ, they began to ask themselves if the Church was serious about fulfilling their commitment to young children at their Baptism.  The support for parents and formation with substantive, developmentally appropriate for young children were largely absent, until CGS became part of the life of their parish, where CGS is grounded in ministry to families and the spiritual lives of children in the home as well as Sunday formation. 

Discovering and developing CGS 20 years ago was part of the answer for Davette as a parent and congregant. But it sparked in her a desire to continue to help parents and very young children, and over ten years ago she began collecting furniture, books, practical life exercises, and materials to adapt CGS for toddlers. Along with supporting young families in the parish, the parent/toddler work became integral to the evangelization and outreach of her parish. She followed the simple advice of Silvana Montanaro – simpler and shorter – and Silvana’s own focus on supporting parents. 

In Davette’s parish, parents have a role in the toddler atrium, access to an excellent parent library, and constant help preparing the environment for children at home so they can develop independence in activities of daily life as well as their own spiritual life.  A unique community of parents has developed out of this atrium. Over ten years later, strong bonds still exist among many of the families from the early parent/toddler cohorts. Whether part of Sunday morning worship or not they continue to come to camps and weekday outreach and seasonal celebrations of the atrium that are opened to the community each year

Last summer, as the pandemic unfolded, with parish buildings closed and the “atrium” moved into homes, Davette realized she had also prepared these parents to easily support their children, now up to 12 years of age, in deepening and living their faith at home. She was able to offer the Parent Toddler Course online last year, not in spite of the limitations of the pandemic but because of them. 

We’re offering the Parent Toddler course online again this summer. This course will help catechists connect parents to atrium life and establish it at home as well. A parent/toddler atrium serves toddlers. Importantly, it also serves parents, helping them take on their role as the primary catechists of their children. And it serves the atrium. Parents who are welcomed with their toddlers and offered a substantive program will be assistants and catechists and promoters of the atrium, and committed to their children’s participation in the years ahead. 

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