Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

“Help me to fall in love with God by myself.”

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a worldwide children’s Christian formation program based on the methods of Maria Montessori. Central to the program is the atrium, a room designed to focus the child’s attention on key scriptural passages or liturgical moments. After an introduction by the catechist, the children are invited to work with material on their own to continue their meditation.

The Level I Atrium is for children aged 3 to 6. It is based on the assumption that hands-on manipulative work is essential for early learning, whether theological or academic. Young children already have a relationship with God. What remains is for adults to assist in nurturing that relationship, putting words to it and preparing a place for its growth. That place — the atrium — becomes the children’s prayer space where they develop social bonds with one another and familiarity with liturgical materials and content and the articles of the Eucharist.

Level I has as its goals advancing the child’s prayer/reflective life through representational retelling of the prophesies and parables and lessons about the historical Jesus and the land of Israel. The parables of the Good Shepherd and the Found Sheep are central to this level.

Level II Atrium, for children aged 6 to 9, builds upon the Level I program, but does not require it. In Level II, more emphasis is placed on issues of moral development and children have ample opportunity to use their developing reading and writing skills. More parables and historical stories about Jesus are added and the old ones revisited, along with the Nativity story. The map work is more advanced. Children study the Unity of the History of the Kingdom of God, which works to unite the Big Bang with Creation. In the spring, the Fettucia (“ribbon” in Italian) is unrolled, showing the history of the Earth — Creation, Redemption and the Parousia.

Level III Atrium, for children aged aged 9 to 12, explores more deeply the covenants with God revealed in Hebrew Scripture. The three-year curriculum revolves through three major Old Testament Bible studies: 1) Creation, The Fall, The Flood; 2) Abraham and Sarah; and 3) Moses, the Exodus and the Gift of the Law. “The Plan of God” is the overarching theme of this level. A huge timeline depicts how God has had a plan throughout all of history to draw everything together with Him in a cosmic communion of love. All of history is straining toward the time of Parousia, when God will be all in all. Level III children participate in a variety of community service projects, including fundraising for Food for the Poor, and participating in Beverly’s Good Friday Walk.

For much more information on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, see the web sites listed on our links page.