Meet Our Catechists

All of our catechists are trained by the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Each level of certification includes 90+ hours of lecture, presentation, prayer, personal album work, and practicum. Together with clergy and scholars from around the country, as well as several seasoned Formation Leaders from the National Association, our catechists have participated in a lengthy and on-going research/adaptation process to ensure all content reflects Orthodox theology.

Our catechists are under the direction of Fr. Nicholas Speier, himself an educator by training and experience. He is priest-in-charge at St. Athanasius, and is also a parent and grandparent. He holds a Lifetime Teaching Credential in Special Education, a BA in Liberal Arts, and has enjoyed more than 25 years in the Orthodox faith, serving for many years as a youth pastor before becoming the senior pastor of St. Athanasius Church.

Joanne Gish ( currently serves as Coordinator for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program at St. Athanasius Orthodox Church. She became Orthodox in 1987, together with her husband, and they have raised three children in the Orthodox faith. Joanne has over 20 years of experience working with children in religious education, and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program is unlike anything she has encountered before. For Joanne, studying CGS has been an awe-inspiring journey of personal growth in her relationship with the Good Shepherd. She is a trained catechist for both Level I and Level II.

Carla Harris  ( currently serves as a Level I catechist and has completed training for Level II. She holds a BA in Sociology from Westmont College with an emphasis in elementary education and has over 10 years experience working with young children. Carla appreciates the educational style CGS offers young children and finds that it is as much of an education to her own heart as it is for the children she serves.

Jane G. Meyer Jane G. Meyer ( currently serves as our Level III catechist. She appreciates the insights one can learn from young children and feels honored to work with them on a weekly basis in the atrium setting. She is also a children’s book author; you can read about her writing and other projects at

Kate Vander Laan ( is trained in all three levels and currently serves in the LI and LIII atria.  The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has been a significant means of God's life-giving grace from the moment she joined the CGS team as an observer in 2006. She completed her Level I training in February 2008, her Level II training in June 2011, and is in the process of being trained for LIII.  As she has served in the Level I and Level III atria she has come to a deep appreciation of the essentialism of the 3-6 year-old child and a growing admiration for the emerging sense of vocation she sees in the 9-12 year-old children

Cheryl Giordani ( is thrilled to be returning to the Level I atrium in the observer capacity this fall. Cheryl is a trained Level I catechist and daily works in a local Montessori classroom. After homeschooling her children for 18 years, she enthusiastically welcomes the chance to support the children of St. Athanasius in their journey with the Good Shepherd.  

Seraphima Sierra Butler (on sabbatical) was added to the flock of the Good Shepherd through the sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation in 1997, the same year in which she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance and English. Having completed five years of training in all three levels of the Catechesis, as well as a year-long practicum and discernment process, Seraphima was the first Orthodox Formation Leader recognized by the National Association for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She served as a catechist of children ages 3-12; led a formation course for adults; has written articles related to the Catechesis in such publications as The Handmaiden and Praxis Magazine; has led workshops and retreats for adults and children; and has spoken at events on the correlation of Orthodoxy and the Catechesis.