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Sacred Heart RC Church begins new catechism program for children

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Ray and Dorothy Pichette were pleased to introduce the new Atrium they have prepared at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Langton following Saturday's church service.

It's not what might be considered a 'typical' atrium. This one is small carpeted room, with many storage cabinets. It's perfect for a new program recently introduced at the church.

"Alton (Hayek) and I started building this (Atrium) about six months ago, and I started building this stuff (materials in the room) about three months ago," said Ray Pichette.

The room was designed for teaching The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, a Christian Ministry for children ages 3-12 years based on the Bible and liturgy of the church.

"The program actually starts at JK," said Pichette. "And it goes all the way up to teenage kids. You can also do it past the age of 12, there is a program for high school kids too."

High school age students are encouraged to volunteer as program helpers for younger children.

"You get into the religion with the kids," said Pichette. "It's a lot more in depth. The kids are going to learn a lot more about their religion, their faith - there's stuff in here that I didn't even know. It's a lot of hands-on stuff that they're going to do.

"This is all stuff that I wish I had for my kids. They're going to learn more about Jesus and what He did, and why He died for us.

"They don't have this hands-on stuff (in the schools)," he said, citing the model of the liturgical calendar he built, topographical map of Israel, and model of 'the tomb.'

"We have special chairs for the kids... we have the Good Shepherd with the sheepfold, we have the Last Supper with the figures (made by Ray's son Ryan)... we have a functioning altar with all the parts of the altar, Tabernacle, baptismal font... This is stuff they aren't being taught in school. We're going between the lines."

On the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Association of Canada website, it says the Ministry provides "an opportunity for children to fall in love with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in a child-friendly space called an atrium - located in a church or school; guided activity to aid meditation on Bible scripture and the mysteries of the Christian faith once a week - in small groups, facilitated by trained adults (catechists); and that each child's unique spiritual needs and abilities are respected and nurtured."

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is recognized as a Ministry by the Anglican and Catholic Churches of Canada.

Pichette and his wife Dorothy, who started taking the course six months ago, are now licensed 'Catechesists.'

"It originated in Rome, some 60-or-so years ago," Pichette noted.

While taking the Good Shepherd course, he was introduced to lyrics for a song written by the program creator (Sofia Cavalletti) which did not have music.

A musician with 40 years experience, Pichette created a melody for it.

S.H.I.N.E.

"Now we're having the kids next month, together as a group - there's 74 kids in the S.H.I.N.E. (Sing His Inspirational News Everywhere) program - we're going to do the video here and it's going to be presented to the Pope in Rome. And it's going to be on the Good Shepherd website."

Pichette, who started playing music at Sacred Heart parish about 10 years ago, became Youth Coordinator in March 2016. He then started playing music at the school's monthly Mass.

"I'm not a teacher," said Pichette. "I started here as a Youth Coordinator teaching new music. Father Slawek (Slawomir Szwagrzyk), the last priest, he wanted these kids to learn new music. They weren't learning any new songs, they were playing all the old stuff and every Mass was the same song.

"He found out I had sold my business in Eden, and said, 'I've got something else I'd like you do to.' That's when I started the program with the Youth Ministry."

In the fall, 13 youth from Sacred Heart (Langton), Our Lady of Fatima (Courtland) and St. Michael's (Walsh) signed up for the Youth Ministry music program, and Pichette bought them yellow T-shirts.

"I said to Father (Slawek), 'Why don't we start a program where we can get the kids a little more involved than what they're doing?' Because there's a lot of talent in these three schools. He said, 'Whatever you want to do, you just go ahead and do it.' So we got it set up. I ordered 13 T-shirts, I bought them crosses, and I made wristbands. The next month it went from 13 to 34, and the following month there was 74 kids signed up.

"Father (Slawek) was teary-eyed, he couldn't believe this was happening. I said, 'Why don't we give the kids a Youth Ministry Mass? Give them a Saturday night. So the kids do all the singing, they do all the readings, they do the altar serving, they do the greeting at the door, we have leaders... so the Mass is there's, they look after it all. I pick the music they're going to sing, and I teach them the music. The talent these kids have is just unbelievable.

"I'm not a religious guy," said 65-year-old Pichette. "I owned a body shop and a tow truck (Wreck-A-Mend). I had a rude awakening just before I sold the business - I just about got killed by a cable off the tow truck. It threw me over 10 feet through the air, knocked me unconscious. I ended up in a hospital for nine hours and I said to my wife, 'I'm all done.'

"I sold the business about a year ago... and I had no idea this is what I would be doing. I've been married 41 years and I've been playing music 40 years.

"It is such a pleasure working with these kids, it's just unbelievable."

cabbott@postmedia.com

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