On August 9, Franciscan Sister Lucy Sabatini passed away just two months after her 91st birthday. For many years, she was the administrator of the Nazareth Nursery Montessori school in New York City. That was just one stop on her long education mission but for the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, it was her most important. It was at Nazareth, that Sr. Joan Curtin, CND, director of the Catechetical Office, along with several advisors, first observed the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This Montessori based method of religious formation was developed in Italy by Dr. Sophia Cavalletti, a renowned scripture scholar, and by Gianna Gobbi, a Montessori teacher who trained under Maria Montessori herself. Sr. Lucy trained as a Montessori educator in London, England.
The guiding principle of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is that even the youngest child already has a relationship with Jesus, a relationship that a Good Shepherd catechist will help the child discover and develop.
Sr. Joan recalled that visit to the Nazareth Nursery. “In 1996, with the support and encouragement of Msgr. Thomas Bergin, the archdiocesan vicar of education, Dr. Catherine Hickey, the superintendent of schools, and I had been looking for an early childhood curriculum that we could present as our preferred methodology,” Sister Joan said. “Dr. Hickey and I, along with the member of the committee writing our Guidelines for Catechesis Pre-K through Eighth Grade, had examined many different methodologies, but when we visited Sr. Lucy’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium and observed the children, we all know at once that this was the answer. We saw the beauty and profoundness of this process. It was Sr. Lucy who gave this gift to us.”
Not too long after the visit, one of Sr. Lucy’s catechists arrived at the Catechetical Office for an interview. Linda Sgammato, a special education teacher and certified catechist of the Good Shepherd, had written to Cardinal John O’Connor. Sr. Mary Eugene Fenton, SC, simultaneously recommended Mrs. Sgammato to Sr. Joan. Sr. Joan soon offered her the position of director of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd process for the Catechetical Office as well as director of special religious education. With Linda Sgammato’s leadership, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd flourished. Sr. Joan has no doubt that Good Shepherd himself guided all of this. After Mrs. Sgammato’s retirement in 2015, Sr. Nancy Doran, SSC, and Maureen McKew became stewards of the catechesis.
For many years, Sr. Lucy continued as a champion of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Following the philosophy of Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi, she guarded the Catechesis against any and all efforts to turn it into a “program” or otherwise institutionalize it. Sr. Lucy was true to the founders’ vision, a vision she discovered when catechists at Nazareth Nursery came to her, expressing their need for a better catechetical method for the young children.
Sr. Mary Anne Maceda, OSF, director of religious education at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., is a certified catechist and formation leader for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. For many years, she hosted Sr. Lucy’s formation sessions at Mt. St. Francis in Peekskill. “I must have sat through 20 of her formation sessions,” Sr. Mary Anne said, “and I always learned something new.” The Catechetical Office and all those formed in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd are indebted to Sr. Lucy. May the Good Shepherd, whose lambs she cared for, welcome her