Lead All Souls to Heaven
At a time when many programs and businesses have been forced to shut down, St. Francis School has been blessed to begin a new work of evangelization. The St. Clare Montessori Atrium opened in September as the first Diocesan school-day Montessori instruction for children of all faiths. This weekly program offers children ages 3-5 a wholly distinctive approach to discovering God’s Love for them.
The Atrium centers around Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the One who will go in search of anyone who is lost. He will protect His flock from thieves and predators, and He will ultimately lay down his life for His sheep.
“In the St. Clare Montessori Atrium, children experience an environment of profound love and trust. They meet a God who will go to the ends of the earth to find them, and to save them,” said Principal Mark Schwerdt. “The Atrium is the greatest expression of Maria Montessori’s methodology. It offers an environment that invokes wonder as it leads all souls to heaven.”
To outsiders, the Atrium can look like play. However, upon closer look, one finds an environment that has been meticulously planned and created anew each week by the teachers. When St. Francis School children arrive at the Atrium, they are ushered into a very different kind of learning atmosphere: one where they are led by their imagination and one where their “work” becomes play. Each child is brought before God – as Scripture says, “playing always before Him” (Proverbs 8:30). Some children will “say” Mass with miniature sacred vessels, others will sort beads or measure water, and some will take a turn playing with the Good Shepherd Himself.
Through the natural process of discovery, each child finds God in their work and also learns a great truth about the world around them. “We introduce them to the works of their hands, both practical and spiritual, in the hopes that they see themselves, and those around them, as works of God’s hands,” said Mrs. Trish Woodward. Mrs. Karen Guepy, the Director of the St. Clare Montessori Atrium, describes the environment as “a hands-on experience for all children to learn and grow in their faith. It is one where the real teacher is Christ.”
Launching the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd within the traditional curriculum at St. Francis School has been fruitful for the whole school community. Young children are absorbing some of the greatest spiritual truths through simple and real contact with the environment around them, and teachers, parents, and older students are enriched by their pure witness to Christ. As Principal Schwerdt explained, “I see the spirituality of the children developing in the Atrium and it is changing our school.”