The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a Christian formation process for children aged 3 to 12. It is grounded in Scripture and liturgical study using Montessori principles as a tangible, yet indirect, self-teaching method developed by Dr. Sofia Cavalletti & Dr. Gianna Gobbi since 1954.
The Catechesis is based on the principle that the child desires to draw near to God. The process allows children to hear the Gospel through the use of sensorially rich materials. The children are free to work with these materials that represent essential proclamations of the Christian message.
The adult’s task is to prepare the sacred space for the children, called the Atrium, so they can respond to this Holy relationship, first proclaimed to them by Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Themes are offered in such a way as to develop the religious potential present in every child.
The Catechesis is offered in over 50 countries and different religious traditions. See the Australian association website.
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The Atrium provides a unique prepared environment for children from three to twelve to encounter the living God.
Individual and group opportunities for learning and exploration are provided.
In keeping with the Montessori philosophy of education on which the program is based, children are encouraged to work at their own pace.
The program is divided into three Levels – from three years to six years, six to nine and nine to twelve. This child is in the first level group.
The catechists prepares handmade materials and maintains the environment of the Atrium. S/he observes the children and gives selected lessons and presentations with respect to the children’s individual personalities, learning styles and developmental levels. The catechist is not the teacher – the only true teacher is God.
The classical Montessori lessons of practical life are included in the Level One (3-6) Atrium sessions. Brass and silver polishing, flower arranging, pouring, folding, sorting and spooning are some of the lessons that promote fine motor control and extend concentration. This work ensures that children are successful and independent with future Atrium works such as the preparation of the cruets. Or work with Altar linens. The work also has a meditative quality. Children often return to the practical life work in order to contemplate a Biblical or liturgical lesson.
In the Level One (3-6) program, the nomenclature and gestures of the Eucharist and Baptism are presented to the children.
The liturgical calendar and its seasons and colours are introduced.
These works are expanded upon in the second level
and in Level Three, the structure of the services is examined and studied in detail.
The older children, who have a sense of history and time passing work with timelines to learn the history of the people of God and their place in it. These are large and complex works which provide rich learning experiences for the children.
In the Level Two sessions, the three great moments of salvation history Creation, Redemption and Parousia are explored in various ways through tactile materials appropriate to this age group.