Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

4 & 5 year old and those entering Kindergarten

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"Light of Christ Celebration"  Liturgy of Light

This liturgy is based upon the Easter Vigil. We gather with the children in the dark, where we pray the same ritual on the paschal candle and light it for the first time as did Bishop Conlon at the Easter Vigil.  Then we process behind the candle into the atrium.

Our song of praise and a blessing over the paschal candle led us to read the scriptural account of the resurrection. Each child is handed a small candle, “lit” from the paschal candle, with the words, "receive the light of Christ." We hold the candles for a short time of prayer and singing, then place them around the paschal candle.

Cenacle - Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Sometimes the best moments in the Atrium are when the children get to explore special moments from our Liturgy within a setting that is created just for their young minds. In this photo our student is exploring the Cenacle. She is working with the materials to understand when Jesus spent time in the upper room celebrating the Passover meal with his friends, the apostles. During the presentation our students heard Christ's words in Mark 14:12-25, "This is my body. Take and eat it.", and "This is my blood. Take and drink it." All the children were very fascinated by these words, and were able to talk about when we hear these words during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Each one of the students expressed their excitement about being able to participate in this very special feast at Mass when they make their First Holy Communion a few years from now. 

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for Preschool -
4 and 5 years old and those entering Kindergarten.  

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach to the religious formation of children. It is rooted in the Bible, the liturgy of the Church, and the educational principles of Maria Montessori. Children gather in an "atrium," a room prepared for them, which contains simple yet beautiful materials that they use.


You may be wondering how these materials help the religious life of children? If an adult hears a beautiful passage from the Bible, the adult might take a Bible, find the passage, and read it slowly again and again. He or she may think deeply about the words and perhaps speak to God in a thankful or hopeful prayer. But a little child, too young to read, needs another way. In an atrium the child can ponder a biblical passage or a prayer from the liturgy by taking the material for that text and working with it - placing wood figures of sheep in a sheepfold of the Good Shepherd, setting sculpted apostles around a Last Supper table, or preparing a small altar with the furnishings used for the Eucharist. Older children who do read often copy parables from the Bible, lay in order written prayers from the rite of baptism, or label a long time-line showing the history of the kingdom of God. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program joins Sofia Cavalletti's theological insights into children's spiritual development with the educational principles and methods developed by Marie Montessori. 

"If we want to help the child draw nearer to God, we should with patience and courage seek to go always closer to the vital nucleus of things. This requires study and prayer. The child will be our teacher if we know how to observe."
-- Sofia Cavalletti


History of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the result of a long period of careful observation of children by Sofia Cavalletti and her Montessori collaborator, Gianna Gobbi, in Rome. It began quite by accident, without warning or planning, the way God so often comes into our lives. In 1954 Sofia was a Hebrew and Scripture scholar, comfortable in her role in the academic world, when a mother asked her to give some religious instruction to her son. At first Sofia refused, saying she knew nothing about children. The mother persisted and eventually, Sofia consented. That experience with a 7 year-old changed her whole life. She saw in that child and in numerous other children since, a way of being in the presence of God that is both unique to the child and a gift to the adult who stops long enough to notice. Perhaps it is because Sofia went before the child with no preconceived ideas of what should happen that the child responded with such joy. Certainly her background in Scripture made it possible for her to talk about God in a way that opened and enthused the child. From that day to the present time Sofia and Gianna remind us constantly to look to the child for that sign of a deeply religious life - joy - and to always ask the question: "What face of God is the child telling us he or she needs to see?"





Rosie McCune
Mrs. McCune and her husband, Jeff, have been parishioners of St. Raymond for 16 years. They have three children who attend St. Raymond Religious Education. Their oldest son is in 7th grade, they have a daughter in 5th grade, and a daughter in 4th grade. Mrs. McCune taught 2nd grade RE for 5 years. When approached with the opportunity of teaching in the CGS program Mrs. McCune instantly fell in love with all that the program offers! 

Anna Foreman

2016-2017 Atrium Handbook

All About the Atrium

Parent Resources


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