August 2023

by Catherine Maresca

In 2001 I participated in a Children’s Literature Conference at Middle Tennessee State University. Catechist and Children’s Literature Professor Margaret Ordubadian had taken CGS courses with me in Nashville, and encouraged me to write a paper about parables as a form of children’s literature. My time at the conference was fascinating. I’m not sure my paper successfully crossed the bridge into the world of children’s literature, but I was amazed by these professors who knew the name, author, illustrator, date of publication, number of editions, and languages of every book mentioned by anyone in the conference. I also felt their joy. They were thrilled to be talking about their passion for children’s literature with others equally passionate and knowledgeable about their field. “This is what we need in CGS,” I thought. And the seed of Weaving Our Gifts was planted.

I shared this experience with Deb Pelletier and Susan Piescik – both catechists in Connecticut. Deb, a professor of physical therapy, responded, “I do this for my college in physical therapy…I know how to do this…I’ll walk you through it.” And so Weaving Our Gifts was born. We have enjoyed 10 biannual gatherings together in Connecticut, Washington DC, and in 2021, online. For each, we learned from a scholar in a field related to our work: including Jewish spirituality and studies, Montessori theory, interfaith work, faithful scientists, and Biblical studies. We also learned from each other in breakout sessions, applying our own expertise to areas of work in the atrium. Margaret, the Children’s Literature professor, gave a workshop on communal reading of a Biblical text for a liturgy or celebration. Catechists have shared experiences of CGS abroad. Montessori catechists deepened our understanding of how the Montessori method is used in the atrium, and much more.

At Weaving Our Gifts we also experience the great joy of speaking about our work in a context where we don’t have to explain the many nuances of phrases such as, “the Good Shepherd,” “like a mustard seed,” “Parousia,” “materials,” or “the role of the adult.” Our conferences have been a feast almost too rich for consumption.

Weaving Our Gifts also creates an opportunity to address the shift in context of our work. From Sofia Cavalletti’s context of post-war Rome, through the convening and aftermath of Vatican II, to the environment we North American catechists are working in today, there have been significant changes. Among other things, we recognize children from different cultures/immigrants, neurodiverse children, a variety of denominations or faith traditions, multilingual atriums, and children from LGBTQ families. Our American context is rich in many ways with its diversity, beauty, and generosity. But part of this context is the presence of racism, sexism, greed and violence woven into our institutions. Children are not immune to these influences – by coming together as catechists in conversation, we create more possibilities of addressing the pressing issue of how we can help the children we serve navigate these influences as Christians.

In October Weaving Our Gifts will convene once again. You can participate online, or join one of a number of satellite locations around the country. The plenary sessions will be broadcast to all participants. Catechists in a satellite location will have the opportunity to share the experience with others in person, and online participants will also convene in groups for breakout sessions.

Come join the feast!

Register for Weaving Our Gifts here.

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