Evangelization of Children: The Good Shepherd Program
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a program of Christian formation for children ages 3 – 6. It is based on the teaching methods of Maria Montessori, and on the understanding that there is a deep bond between God and each child, which produces in the child the desire to draw near to God.
In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the classroom, called the Atrium, is a spiritual environment – a place of worship rather than a traditional classroom. It is perceived as ‘holy ground’ where Christ may be encountered in Word and Action—a place for community and worship where the spiritual life of the child is nurtured and a place of work that becomes prayer and conversation with God. It is a prepared environment where children grow in the knowledge of Jesus and His love. The work of the Atrium prepares children for involvement in the larger worshipping community.
The hands-on material in the Atrium encourages children to explore and deepen their experiences at their own pace. The children are free to work with materials that represent the essence of the Christian message. The adult’s role is to prepare the environment, present works that call forth the child’s response, then step back allowing God and the child to work together.
The vision for this faith experience began in Rome in 1954 with Dr. Sofia Cavalletti, a Hebrew Scripture scholar, and her co-worker, Gianna Gobbi, a Montessori educator. It has now spread internationally.