Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a hands-on method of faith formation based on the Montessori method of learning. Unlike book-based curriculums that use a workbook model with minimal teacher training, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd utilizes a dedicated prepared space for children called the “atrium” and extensively trained catechists. The atrium is filled with child-sized furnishings and manipulative models of people, places, and objects found in scripture and liturgy.
These materials are introduced to the children throughout the year. Each week, the children choose materials to continue their meditation about particular Scripture texts or signs from the liturgy. Because children learn by using their hands, working with materials allows them to enter more deeply into meditation, nurturing their relationship with God.
The deep religious potential of children first captivated two Italian laywomen, Sofia Cavelletti, a Hebrew scripture scholar and Gianna Gobbi, a Montessori educator, over 60 years ago. It is the joyful, peaceful response of the children themselves that inspired and determined the content of this unique program. Guided by the children’s own choices and work, Sofia and Gianna were able to select for each age group those Scriptures and liturgical signs that are the best developmental match.
Over time the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd spread, first coming to the United States in the 1970s. Today, it is used in many dioceses and denominations across the nation, and in 37 countries.