Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Episcopal Church »  |  The Diocese of Virginia

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

 

About the CatecCatechesis of the Good Shepherd: The Shepherd and his lambhesis of the Good Shepherd

All Saints is pleased to offer an exciting and unique approach to the religious formation of children, using Montessori educational principles, recognizing the developmental, spiritual needs and capacities of the child.

This method is known as the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. International in its scope, serving children of diverse cultures and backgrounds and growing, Episcopal parishes throughout the country account for half of the existing artria. 

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd takes its name from one of the earliest and most central presentations offered to children, the parable of the Good Shepherd. It helps the child enjoy a relationship with God, a relationship of deep peace, a real relationship of being in love. There is a profound respect for the child and the child’s desire to come closer to God.

The Atrium

The program takes place in a room called an atrium, a prepared space for the children in which every object is a help to knowing God. It is a place of simplicity and order, prayer and work and community. Everything in this room is intended to be appropriate to the ages and sizes of children who gather there. The furniture is child-sized to foster moving about freely, working comfortably, using and moving objects. It is their religious needs that guide the catechesis. The materials aid the children in their understanding of the liturgy of the church and the essential tenets of our faith.

The qualities most noticeable about the materials in the atrium are their simplicity and their order. Each material has its own place on the scripture shelf or on the liturgical shelf. There are other centers in the room as well – a baptism area, an altar table, a geography area, a prayer corner. Above all, the room has a certain solemnity. The young child is shown how to walk slowly and speak softly so that, even though everyone in the atrium is busy and active, an atmosphere of silence permeates the atrium. The sessions offer to children the time to listen, work, pray, sing, wonder, rest and discuss important things. In the silence of the atrium, children sometimes make a first discovery that they have an inner life.

History

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is not new. It began in Rome in 1954 and has roots in the beginning of the twentieth century. In the early 1900s, the work of Maria Montessori (1870-1954), the great Italian physician and educator, uncovered characteristics and capacities of children that were not commonly known. She consistently wrote about the young child’s love of order, capacity for concentration, desire for work, and most surprisingly, love of silence. Montessori had begun some religious work with children in Barcelona, outlined in her seminal work The Child in the Church, first published in 1929 and revised in 1965.

The two women whose work are the foundation of the catechesis are Sofia Cavalletti, a Hebrew and biblical scholar,  and her collaborator Gianna Gobbi. Gobbi was a Montessori educator, trainer of teachers, and catechist of children, who served as an assistant Maria Montessori in a course in Rome in 1951. Gobbi brought a knowledge of Montessori education to the endeavor. Cavalletti described her work with Gianna Gobbi, and the work of catechists in many countries, in the book The Religious Potential of the Child. Gianna Gobbi wrote contributed Listening to God with Children which outlined the method, particularly the Montessori approach as implemented in the atrium.

Read more about Our Catechesis program »