The Catechesis Of The Good Shepherd
A Genuine and Profound Formation
The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori brings a specifically Catholic dimension to Montessori education through the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS). CGS responds to the child’s silent plea at every age: “Help me come closer to God by myself.”
CGS uses Montessori teaching principles to present the most essential realities of the Catholic faith to even very young children. Specially designed materials and inspiring presentations help children explore areas of faith formation appropriate to their developmental age, such as:
- The Life of Christ
- The Wonder of the Kingdom of God
- The Plan of God/History of the Kingdom of God
- Moral Formation through Parables, Virtues, Maxims, and Service
- The Holy Bible, including Old and New Testament Studies
The outcome is a profoundly personal and joyful expression of faith, unique to each child’s relationship with God. To learn more about the Spiritual Formation Goals for The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, click here.
The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori is the only school in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and one of just a handful of schools nationwide that completely integrates Montessori education with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
All students, regardless of creed, are provided with the same spiritual formation through CGS. Catholic students preparing to receive the Sacraments in their home parish are provided with additional religious instruction, again drawing from the rich materials of the catechesis.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach to the religious formation of children ages 3 to 12. It originated in 1954 through the work Dr. Sofia Cavalletti, a Biblical scholar trained in Catholic theology, and Gianna Gobbi, a Montessori educator. After 50 years of working with children all over the world, these women found that whatever their culture, children respond in the same way to certain elements of the Christian message. This observation has shaped the core content and methodology of the catechesis.
Scripture, liturgy, salvation history, and sacramental signs provide the content of the catechesis – with a special emphasis on scripture. The methodology of the Catechesis utilizes Montessori teaching principles to help children develop an informed and genuine relationship with God. In its Guidelines for Catechesis, the Archdiocese of New York endorsed this approach “because of its substantial theological content, and because of its sound principles and proven methodology.”
The children experience a formation that is profoundly biblical and sacramental … and prayerful as well. The kind of knowledge that Jesus wills for His disciples is not a limited, academic knowledge, but a knowing that addresses the whole person – heart, soul, and mind. Therefore, while the children receive a thoroughly informed formation, the primary aim of the catechesis is to lead the child to an authentic, prayerful relationship with God.
Underlying the entire catechesis are the following principles:
- God and the child have a relationship that catechesis seeks to serve with reverence and respect.
- The child is capable of perceiving the greatest realities of faith, and must never be talked down to.
- The catechist is a servant of a message that is not his or her own, and together with the child must humbly listen to God’s word.
- The child must be given the opportunity to discover the truth on as deep a level as possible.
- Prayer, contemplation, and silence are natural components of the child’s religious life, and must be honored.
- Providing a joyful journey for the child and the adult is the essence of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Montessori educational principles underlie the methodology of the Good Shepherd program. A trained teacher/catechist prepares a special environment for the children’s work, worship, and reflection. Catechetical materials allow the children to work independently once the materials have been presented.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for the Young Child (Ages 3-6)
Children from 3 to 6 years of age have demonstrated a particular sensitivity to the following points: Jesus Christ as the “Good Shepherd” who protects His sheep and calls them each by name; Eucharist as the greatest gift of the love of the Father; Jesus Christ as the “light of the world” and Baptism as the act with which this light is given.
The Catechesis provides close links to scripture and liturgy – with a special emphasis on scripture. Dr. Cavalletti believes that we learn to recognize God through the Bible, particularly through those events that constitute the basis of Christianity: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Materials on the life of Christ and his teachings help make the mystery of God concrete for the child. The geography materials establish Jesus as a real person in time and space and Israel as the land through which God realized salvation for all. Infancy narratives announce the Incarnation with the words of Scripture, moving from the Annunciation, to the Birth of Christ, to the Flight into Egypt. The models of Jerusalem and of the empty tomb are the starting points for the Paschal narratives and the child’s celebration of the Easter mystery.
Selected parables serve as keys to unlock the mystery of the kingdom of God and to nurture the child’s natural sense of wonder. The 3-6 year old child enters the mystery of the Mass through the most important gestures including the preparation of the chalice, the epiclesis and offering, and the gesture of peace. From these gestures the Mass emerges as the Sacrament of the Gift. The child becomes acquainted with the historical character of the liturgy through the events of the Last Supper, Christ’s death, and His resurrection.
Materials that embody the liturgical colors and calendar situate the child in the church year. A prayer corner also reflects the liturgical cycle with appropriate colors, prayers, songs, banners, and readings to enhance the rituals and celebrations of the seasons.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for the Elementary Child (Ages 6-12)
The elementary child is captured by the image of the True Vine. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.” The proclamation responds to the deep need of the older child to know better their relationships with God, family, friends, and the larger community.
Children at this age seek guidelines. The moral parables offer a model for comparing their behavior with that of Pharisee, the Tax Collector, or the Good Samaritan. The Found Sheep, the Found Coin, and the Prodigal Son are examined as the children prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The proclamation and meditation stress God’s love, which is constantly forgiving.
The elementary children see the parts of the Mass – the Liturgy of the Word, the Preparation of the Gifts, the Eucharistic Prayer, and Communion – as one unity. The children participate in a four-day retreat prior to the celebration of First Eucharist. Preparation of personal missals filled with illustrations and prayers is a process which deepens their love and understanding of the Eucharist.
The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori Key Area: Sacramental PreparationThe Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori offers sacramental preparation for First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. The four-day “First Communion Retreat” is a particularly rich and joyful time that provides life-long memories for children coming to Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.
The imagination of the older child and his agility with the concept of time are powerful stimuli to explore the past and the future. The first time line, a ribbon fifty meters long, focuses on the high points in the history of salvation from creation through the redemption to the Parousia. Another presentation focuses on the many gifts we receive from God – rocks, minerals, flowers, fruit, friends, family – culminating in God’s gift of His own divine life, in the person of Jesus, a gift which will pervade the whole universe at the completion of history.
For the 9-12 year-old children, a third presentation of the history of salvation focuses on the plan of God in history as a plan of communion, a plan which links all people together. The emphasis is on our response to this unfolding generosity of God and the responsibilities that come with receiving God’s great gifts. “What is the kingdom of God and my place in it?” is a query which begins to lay the foundations for a life’s commitment.
The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori Key Area: The Atrium “The Atrium” is the name for the prepared environment offered to the children in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The atrium is intended to offer a “retreat center” atmosphere for children. It is a place where children experience the joy of falling in love with God. We invite parents to tour this beautiful spiritual environment for children. The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori is the only school in the Cincinnati area and one of just a handful of schools nationwide that completely integrates Montessori education with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Portions of the text on this page are taken from the booklet, “The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd”, published by the National Center for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Oak Park, IL.