Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the religious formation program used at St. Thomas the Apostle for preschool through sixth grade. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a Christ centered Montessori-based approach to children’s religious education, founded in 1954 by biblical scholar Dr. Sofia Cavalletti. This approach holds that children, from a very early age, have a full and unique relationship with God. To facilitate and develop this relationship, the adult establishes a prepared environment – the atrium. The atrium is sacred space, geared to the developmental level of the child it serves, in both the content of the presentations and in the size and scale of the materials and furnishings. The responsibility of the adult is to work alongside the child, calling forth a response rather than pouring in information. The program is established worldwide. Most recently it has been chosen by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity to serve them in their work among the “poorest of the poor.”
Children enter the program at Level I. The Level I atrium serves the child from preschool through kindergarten, when they are developing language and motor skills. The Level 1 child (3-6 yrs) enters the atrium with a sense of wonder and a love of God. The materials of the atrium allow the child to learn of the presence of God among us – the geography material shows where Jesus was born, lived, and died then rose again. The model altar and lessons on the gestures of the Mass draw the child to enter into the mystery of the Eucharist. The liturgical calendar and the chasubles of the four liturgical colors help the child to celebrate the church seasons. The parable of the Good Shepherd responds to the child’s vital need for relationship.
Level II (ages 6-9, grades 1-3) continues and develops the themes of Level I, adding elements that correspond to this stage of childhood. Children in this age group begin to expand their horizons; they develop imagination, an orientation to time and a consciousness of the wider world around them. Now the work they are presented encourages them to begin to contemplate the whole history of salvation and their place in it. They prepare for the sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Communion. The central parable for this age group is the Parable of the True Vine in which Christ exhorts us to “remain in his love” so that we may “bear much fruit”. Work on the Bible and the liturgy continue, with expanded presentations on the Mass and scripture studies that correspond to the liturgical seasons.
Level III serves the 9-12 year old child, through grades 4, 5, and 6. This level builds on the biblical and liturgical foundation established in Level I and broadened in Level II. It expands and deepens the child’s knowledge of the immense scope of Salvation History, focusing especially on that relationship with God embodied in the covenant: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Biblical typology is introduced through selected Old Testament readings. Liturgy is studied in greater detail, and each child will create a hand-written missal of their own. The child’s developing moral sense continues to be formed with work on the Ten Commandments, the Maxims, the moral parables, the Cardinal Virtues, and an intensive study of and meditation on the sacrament of Reconciliation.
In all the levels, we emphasize and foster each child’s relationship with God, with the Church, with our community at St. Thomas the Apostle, and with the world.
Training course for Level I Catechists
There will be a training course for Level I catechists of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. If you would like to work alongside our children to help them develop a full and unique relationship with God. You are very welcome to join our training and be part of our Team. Download the training course flyer for more information.