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Taryn DeLong interviews Mother Chiara Thérèse, head of a new religious community whose charism is Catholic Montessori education. 

As the mother of a 2-year-old, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about child development and education. I studied both topics in college, but it’s been over a decade, and there’s nothing like on-the-job training. I didn’t learn much about the Montessori Method in my psychology or teacher prep courses in college, which were more focused on traditional education.  

However, what I’ve read (and listened to, via podcasts) since becoming a mother has fascinated me. I’m by no means a “Montessori mom,” but applying a couple of approaches here and there has helped make life with a toddler run a little more smoothly and helped my daughter develop a little independence.  

So, when I heard that there was a new community of Roman Catholic religious sisters dedicated to teaching using the Montessori Method, I was intrigued. 




The Servants of the Children of Light  

The first sister of the Servants of the Children of Light took her final vows in January and became Mother Chiara Thérèse. On the same day, Sister Lucia Rose received her habit as a novice.  

The Servants of the Children of Light were created in 2020 in the Diocese of Bismark, North Dakota. They are considered a Public Association of the Christian Faithful, on the path toward becoming a religious order. Mother Chiara Thérèse and Sister Lucia Rose are currently the only members.  

Mother Chiara Thérèse told me that it typically takes many years to become a religious order. “The community needs to be tested with time,” she says, and there need to be around 40 total members, with 20 in final vows. Then, the diocesan bishop determines “if and when such a canonical shift should occur.”  

The name of the community actually comes from Maria Montessori herself. Dr. Montessori was an education pioneer and a Catholic woman who established her method (almost a movement) over her years of teaching and leading schools in Italy. In her book The Child in the Church, she wrote about her desire for a religious order to further her work, as a community would be able to accomplish so much more than an individual. Mother Chiara Thérèse told me that Dr. Montessori wanted the community to be called Sisters of the Children of Light. 


A Catholic Approach to Child Development and Education 

Because Dr. Montessori was Catholic, her approach was grounded in her faith. She described it as the “pedagogical method of the Church,” Mother Chiara Thérèse told me. Montessori teachers (and parents) are called “guides,” and Mother said that “one finds in the well-oiled Montessori guided a beacon of hope and light, to lead the child to Christ, his inner Teacher, and give him the space, time and respect he deserves as he comes to know the adult world.”  

Mother Chiara Thérèse also quoted Dr. Montessori as saying, “The true respect of the child is only possible when one respects God in the child.” As a result, she said, “serving Christ in the child” is the core of their charism. “We desire to serve children with the respect and dignity that they deserve, as created in the image and likeness of God. This also changes the way in which we interact with every child we meet. We see in him all the hidden potentials of a new human life; we desire to 'draw out' this hiddenness so that the life of Christ can dwell more deeply in him.” 




Serving Christ in the Child as a Mother  

I asked Mother Chiara Thérèse for some advice for mothers, and she said, “Each child is so unique and a beautiful masterpiece of God's love to behold! As I work with many different children, my desire is always to honor this uniqueness inside of each one of them. Perhaps for mothers, too, this could be helpful when raising children who are so different from one another!”  

“Each child desires a space in which they can grow, in which they can contribute—albeit in a small way—to the life of the family,” she continued. “The child looks to his mother as a model of a holy way of life and desires to imitate her! I think it is simply remembering that we are here to lead the children to Heaven. Jesus will take care of the rest!” 


Learn more about the Servants of the Children of Light


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Copyright 2024 Taryn DeLong
Images: Canva