We are very excited to offer the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) to all of our students. CGS is a Montessori-based program for children that conveys a simple, synthesized and profound involvement with the Gospel and with the liturgical life of the Church.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd owes much of its insight to the pedagogical work of Maria Montessori (1870-1952). Many know Montessori only as the founder of an alternative method of schooling that encourages a child-led education; however, Montessori was also a faithful Catholic who wanted to see her groundbreaking work in education applied to work with children in the Church. Two other Italian Catholic women Sofia Cavaletti and Gianna Gobbie, developed Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in Rome in the 1950’s based on Montessori’s work. Together they conceived of a simple, attractive method for sharing the richness of the Catholic faith with children who are uniquely capable of accepting the beauty of God’s love.
The program takes place in the “Atrium,” which is a quiet environment where children learn through tactile play. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd emphasizes quiet contemplation and —imagine this — “the enjoyment of God.” The children hear Bible stories and watch them acted out with simple materials; they learn songs and prayers, and are encouraged to play quietly with simple and meaningful objects. For many young children, CGS “cracks the code” of the mass, as children learn to become alert to the details of the liturgy: the significance of color, themes and purposes of the various verses and tools on the altar. Children desire to draw near to God but need the sensitive guidance of the teacher as well as the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit to nurture this relationship.
Stories of how CGS forms children in Christian faith are endless. One story in particular, told by Reverand Sarah Puryer, shows the power of God to speak a word of hope to children and their life circumstances:
A Dominican sister who leads formation classes told a story about a student she taught at a Catholic school that welcomed children from many low-income, struggling families. This student had a particularly difficult and unstable family life and, at times, stayed with relatives because of his parent’s inability to care for him. One morning, he showed up early in her CGS classroom with a pillowcase stuffed full of clothes, saying the relative with whom he had been staying had kicked him out of her home that morning and told him to take his belongings and not return.
The sister invited him to stay in her classroom while she decided how to respond to this incident. She noticed that the boy went over to the font in the baptism area in her room. He began pouring water from the pitcher over his hand into the font, the gesture of baptism he had learned from her presentations. Each time he poured the water, she heard him say to himself, “I am a child of God.” It was beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful to hear this story of how God reminded this young boy of the central truth about his identity, at a time when he was surrounded by instability and mistreatment, and CGS was the vehicle by which that truth was communicated to him.
GOD IS GOOD!!