Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Information (2024)

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Level I, Ages 3-5
“The Mystery of the Child MeetsThe Mystery of God”

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Information (1)

What Is CGS?

  • A Montessori based program to leads children to a relationship with God using hands-on materials that are developmentally age-appropriate.
  • Sessions take place in a specially prepared environment called an atrium, where children can focus on the treasures of our faith: Scripture, liturgy, and sacraments.
  • Children are grouped by ages of developmental similarity: 3-5 (Level I). A child of three or four is the ideal candidate for beginning Level I.
  • The program is designed to cover all the Level I material over a three year period. The children receive a new presentation each week which builds upon each other. Once they receive a presentation, they are free to use that work at any time.

What is an “atrium”? Why isn’t it called a "classroom"?

The Good Shepherd environment is called an atrium because in ancient church tradition the catechumenate would meet in the atrium of the church. The atrium is a special room prepared with beautiful, hand-crafted, child-size materials. The room is specially prepared for the child ages 3-5.

What Are the Benefits?

In the atrium, children fall in love with God and form a life-long relationship with God. This relationship is lived in the fullness of the Church community, strengthened by the liturgy and sacraments, and with profound reverence for Scripture. Children learn and live the central mysteries of our faith. Children receive a strong foundation for our Mass and Sacramental celebrations. The CGS experience nurtures the child into greater participation in the Mass.

Why start a program for 3 to 5 year olds?

At this age, children are developmentally ready and open to form a deeper relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who calls them by name. Children of this age are deeply connected to God; they can easily fall in love with Jesus and begin a life-long relationship with our Good Shepherd. Waiting until the child is 6 or older would mean passing this sensitive period for the personal relationship with Jesus and jumping into the moral reasoning stage first. Without a foundation of love, the law becomes an obligation instead of a gift and a response.

What happens in a Level I atrium?

  • The children see presentations (lessons) on the altar, the vestments, and gestures of the Mass; and have the opportunity to work with materials that reinforce what they have learned. They start to pay attention at Mass, noticing what color the priest is wearing and what he is doing at different points of Mass.
  • The children listen to and meditate on the parables, and especially love the parable of the Good Shepherd. They know that the Good Shepherd knows them and loves them, cares for them, and calls them by name.
  • The program follows the liturgical year to help the child learn the mysteries of the Catholic faith. During Advent, they learn about the geography of the land where Jesus was born, Old Testament prophecies of a Savior, and scriptural accounts of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. During Lent and Easter Season, we introduce scriptural accounts of Jesus' passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Spirit.
  • Every session includes prayer time, with songs and spontaneous prayer by the children.

Important Information for Parents and Guardians

  • Regular attendance is expected.Each session builds upon each other.
  • Since the goal of all work in the atrium is a relationship with Jesus and greater participation at the Mass, attendance at weekly Sunday Liturgy is our response to the call from Jesus.
  • Children should bring “quiet” slippers to the atrium (no lights, noise, no large animal shapes). Quiet slippers help us be calm and respectful in the atrium and also help to keep the carpets clean.

How is CGS different?

  • The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd differs from other approachesin several ways. For example, children begin CGS in their most formative years, ideally as young as age 3, Unlike "textbook and lecture" approaches, CGS is more like a weekly guided retreat in a deeply contemplative environment, in which children immerse themselves in age-appropriate work materials in a beautiful space. While beginning to educate children's minds in the Faith, more importantly, CGS helps them cultivate deep, lifelong relationships with God that inspire them to want to learn about the Faith. Thousands of families who have participated in CGS since its inception in Rome in the 1950s have seen the distinctly profound effects of this approach on their children throughout their lives.
  • This program takes place in a specially-prepared room called an "atrium."
  • The atrium is prepared very simply, containing hands-on "works" inspired by Scripture and the liturgy.When the children enter the atrium, they remove their shoes (remembering that this is "holy ground") and put on slippers.They choose a material to "work" with, perhaps a child-sized altar, equipped with two candles, a small crucifix, a chalice, and a paten. Perhaps they choose to work with the "Pearl of Great Price" diorama, reenacting the scene of the merchant and the pearl in miniature. At some point in each session, the children will see a presentation of a new work that helps lead them to contemplate the wonder of Scripture or the liturgy. At the end of the session, the children and adults gather for communal prayer. Through every act in the atrium, both the children and adults seek to "listen to God." CGS is a Montessori-based method founded by Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi.
  • Level I Atrium is appropriate for 3-5 year-olds (preschool and kindergartners (who are completely Bathroom Independent).
  • Level II Atrium is appropriate for 6-9 year old (first, second and third graders). This level can prepare the children for their sacraments.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Information (2024)

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