Godly Play vs. the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

Fr. Robert J. Gaestel


For several years two methods of religious education that use a Montessori method of teaching have been available to Christian Educators. These programs are Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Godly Play. Of the two programs, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is older and was begun by Dr. Sofia Cavalletti in Rome in 1954. Godly Play was developed by the Rev. Jerome Berryman, who has an extensive background in child development and Montessori education. Fr. Berryman was a Presbyterian minister for twenty five years who left the Presbyterian Church to become an Episcopal priest. He was friends with Dr. Cavalletti and has made use of many of her methods in his program.

Due to the similarities in the way material is presented to children, Christian Educators often ask what is the difference between the two? My purpose in writing this paper is to outline some differences between Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. While their methodology is very similar the two programs have very different theological foundations. I will present these different theological starting points by quoting from Fr. Berryman’s book, Godly Play, Harper Collins, 1991 and then contrasting that with what is said in the training courses for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. At the end of the article, I will add some of my own interpretations of the differences that I perceive. It is my hope that this outline will enable religious educators to understand more deeply the foundations of these two very good programs so they can make intelligent choices as to which one they wish to adopt. 

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