Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Middlebury is the first parish in the Diocese of Burlington to adopt the Come, Follow Me Catechetical Program for children aged 5-11, originally published in French by the Institute Notre Dame de Vie.

The authors of this program are Father Benoit Caulle, a parish priest, and Anne-Marie Le Bourhis, a school teacher and member of the International Catechetical Commission. They are members of Notre Dame de Vie and have been involved in catechesis for many years.

The catechetical program reflects and shares the contemplative prayer lived in the world through the many and varied professional lives of members of the institute, which is represented in Vermont.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish will use the program for elementary school catechesis.

“It helps students communicate with God, helps them to listen and speak to God,” said Father Luke Austin, pastor. “It’s not just a class about something that happened many years ago.”

Facts and doctrine are communicated through the program using visual aids and guided meditations to tell stories that incorporate information from the bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In August catechists attended a workshop series on Come Follow Me at which Emmanuelle Bonhomme, a member of Notre Dame de Vie who does training sessions for teachers using the program, presented information about it.

Integral to the method of the program is dialogue among catechists, students and the Lord, she explained: “It’s an all-encompassing dialogue.”

Built into each class session is time for contemplative prayer. “This journey allows the children to enter into a living relationship with the living Lord,” Bonhomme said.

According to Sister Madeleine Marie Van Diller, a Sister Servant of the Eternal Word from Birmingham, Alabama, who uses Come Follow Me for homeschooled children and students in an inner-city Catholic school, the program “really, truly introduces children into that relationship with God as a person in the person of Jesus and uses scripture without watering it down.”

She said students come to a deeper knowledge of who God is and that He loves them. “It emphasizes silent prayer with God that they can do at home,” she added, noting that two of her students — 6-year-old twin boys — created their own “chapel” behind their father’s recliner.

Laurene Rogers, a catechist at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, said she likes the Come Follow Me program because it is based on scripture and “not simply about how to be a good person.”

But good works flow from the program as knowledge and love of God “enter through our heads, fall into our hearts and go out into life,” Bonhomme said.

“Having people be moral is not the principal purpose of faith formation,” Father Austin said, “but to be put in contact with God, and as a result of that contact and relationship they can live well in the world.”

Come Follow Me can also be used with different methodology for adults, the elderly and those who have developmental disabilities.

The program has been used for many years in France, Lebanon, Lithuania, the Philippines, England, Ireland and the United States.

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—Originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.