Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a teaching method developed by Sofia Cavalletti, in Italy, with her co-worker, Gianna Gobbi. With the "self-teaching" principles of Maria Montessori, this approach is based on the theological moorings of Hebrew scholarship, Scripture studies and Christian liturgy.

The Catechesis is centered on a prepared environment, "The Atrium," and attractively displayed materials inviting children to explore and deepen experiences at their own rhythm. Maps and miniature environments representing the elements of the parables and historical events from Scripture have been shown to satisfy the spiritual needs of the child. The arrangement of the altar and related furnishings conveys the centrality of the Eucharist. The atrium is one of the elements that help the relationship between God and the child to flourish.

After a theme has been presented, the child is free to choose an activity that will make possible the inner dialogue with the "Interior Teacher." The atrium is a place for religious life, not a classroom for instruction. The atrium is a place of work which becomes a conversation with God. The atrium was the place in the early church where the catechumens were prepared. For the child, too, the atrium is a place of preparation for involvement in the larger worshiping community.

An interpersonal relationship is always a mystery, all the more so when that relationship is between God and the child. The catechist's role is to prepare the environment and to make presentations that "call forth" the child's response rather than "pour in" information.

Saint Andrew Episcopal Church uses materials from The Association for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which was formed in 1984 in North America with its main aim being that of "involving adults and children in a common religious experience in which the religious values of childhood are predominant."