Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd  

"Help me come closer to God, by myself." 

“If we want to help the child grow near to God, we should, with patience and to go always closer to the vital nucleus of things.  This requires study and prayer.  The child himself will be our teacher if we know how to observe him.” Sofia Cavalletti



We believe that:

  • God and the child have a unique relationship with one another particularly before the age of six.
  •  the growth of this relationship should be assisted by the adult, but is directed by the Spirit of God within the child.
  •  children need their own place to foster the growth of that relationship.
  • the child’s spiritual growth is best served through tangible but indirect means.


God and the Child with the Adult

An interpersonal relationship is always a mystery, all the more so when that relationship is between God and the child. We believe that there is a deep bond between God and the child which produces in the child the desire to draw nearer to God. The catechist’s role is to prepare the environment and to give selected presentations from scripture and liturgy that “call forth” the child’s response rather than “pours in” information.  The catechist listens with the child and together they ask, “God, who are you? How do you love us?” The adult reflects with the child on the questions generated by the presentations with the materials offered to the child to aid the child’s reflection.


The Atrium - a prepared environement

The atrium (or prepared environment) is one of the elements that helps 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.”

How does the atrium help to nourish this relationship?

  • The atrium can be compared to a retreat house facilitating recollection and silence.
  • The atrium is a place for religious life, for community and worship—not a classroom for instruction.
  • The atrium is a place of meaningful work through which the child can have 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 worship community.

The Materials

The Materials in the atrium are often three-dimensional wood representations of a particular scripture or are items that represent what can be found in Baptism or Eucharist. They are attractively displayed and invite the children to explore and deepen their experience of the presentation at their own rhythm. The most important characteristic of the materials is there close link to the biblical and liturgical sources. The shelves might include maps of Israel and miniature environments representing the elements of the parables or the historical events from the infancy or paschal narratives that have been shown to satisfy the spiritual needs of the child. The model altar and its articles convey the centrality of the Eucharist. The Baptismal font and other liturgical items initiate the child into the liturgical life of the church.

Since 1954, in Rome, Italy, Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi pursued the revelation of the young child’s religious potential, marking over sixty years of research and published material at both the preschool and elementary levels. With the pedological principles of Maria Montessori and the theological moorings of Hebrew scholarship, Scripture studies, and Roman Catholic liturgy and doctrine, Cavalletti and Gobbi, developed an approach which not only appealed to the profound religious intuition of the younger and older children, but which evolved from the children themselves. Today the work (still active in Rome) can also be found in other cities of Italy, and in the countries of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Croatia, England, El Salvador, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, Latvia, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand, Netherlands, Pakistan, Panama, Papa New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Trinidad, Uganda, Uzbekistan, and the United States.