Diocese of Great-Falls Billings, Montana
Mikaela Matakis has been spearheading the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program at St. Jude Thaddeus Church in Havre, Montana, since it began two years ago. This program is an approach for allowing and encouraging young children to explore Jesus’s life, His parables, the liturgy, and the Sacraments, in order to truly know Him in their hearts.
Due to the heavy debt load of the parish, Mikaela does everything as a volunteer. To implement the program, she has actively recruited individuals and organizations within the parish to help create the hands-on objects and paint and prepare rooms that will be dedicated the children’s faith formation. Her joyfully creative efforts in the face of these financial obstacles shines as a beacon that faith and service can overcome many roadblocks.
She quietly evangelizing by example. The bishop of Great Falls-Billings, Most Reverend Michael W. Warfel, said, “Beyond leading the children of the parish to know Jesus in their hearts, Mikaela's outreach to the parish community is leading her fellow parishioners develop their own closer relationship to God.”
Mikaela’s enthusiasm and energy are touching other catechists outside the parish, as well. She encourages them to establish and develop Catechesis of The Good Shepherd programs of their own. A recommended prerequisite for graduating catechists is to observe within a different atrium. Recently, a catechist-in-training observed St. Jude's atrium and met with Mikaela, gaining insight into successfully establishing an atrium within her own parish. With Mikaela’s leadership, St. Jude's is also looking forward to hosting trainings for catechists in coming years as well, available to anyone within the U.S.
What best encapsulates Mikaela's impact through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, outside of the voluntary dedication of making, collecting, fundraising, and directing Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, is the story of one five-year-old girl's perfect attendance last year and how it impacted her family. Through her time under the catechesis of Mikaela, this girl discovered strength and love in a relationship with God, despite her mother not being a practicing Catholic and herself never even being baptized. This girl shared the joy and light of Christ set afire within the atrium so much so that her mother has come back to Mass, even bringing extended family to the Pentecost Celebration. Mikaela's dedication to this Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and willingness to share her faith has brought a daughter and her mother into a closer, lasting relationship with Jesus and each other.
With only two years of implementation, CGS of St. Jude's has had 12 families enrolled, with 18 children. Mikaela is looking to increase her own training and expand the program further; it will soon be implemented in the parish school, allowing for up to triple the current enrollment.
“Being a part of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program has brought to light the boundless gifts of our salvation history,” Mikaela said. “It establishes a legacy of love-filled faith within my own family and that of every child and family that participates, permeating our community and society.”