The Catechesis Of The Good Shepherd: A Genuine and Profound Formation
2013-11-05 09.54.44St. Dominic’s Academy brings a specifically Catholic dimension to Montessori education through the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS). CGS responds to the child’s silent plea at every age: “Help me come closer to God by myself.”

CGS uses Montessori teaching principles to present the most essential realities of the Catholic faith to even very young children. Specially designed materials and inspiring presentations help children explore areas of faith formation appropriate to their developmental age, such as:

The Life of Christ
The Wonder of the Kingdom of God
The Plan of God/History of the Kingdom of God
Moral Formation through Parables, Virtues, Maxims, and Service
The Holy Bible, including Old and New Testament Studies

The outcome is a profoundly personal and joyful expression of faith, unique to each child’s relationship with God.

St. Dominic’s Academy is the only school in the Diocese of Scranton and one of just a handful of schools nationwide that completely integrates Montessori education with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

All students, regardless of creed, are provided with the same spiritual formation through CGS. Catholic students Visit of the Wise Menpreparing to receive the Sacraments in their home parish are provided with additional religious instruction, again drawing from the rich materials of the catechesis.

Scripture, liturgy, salvation history, and sacramental signs provide the content of the catechesis—with a special emphasis on scripture. The methodology of the Catechesis utilizes Montessori teaching principles to help children develop an informed and genuine relationship with God.

The children experience a formation that is profoundly biblical and sacramental … and prayerful as well. The kind of knowledge that Jesus wills for His disciples is not a limited, academic knowledge, but a knowing that addresses the whole person—heart, soul, and mind. Therefore, while the children receive a thoroughly informed formation, the primary aim of the catechesis is to lead the child to an authentic, prayerful relationship with God.

Underlying Principles
Underlying the entire catechesis are the following principles:

God and the child have a relationship that catechesis seeks to serve with reverence and respect.
The child is capable of perceiving the greatest realities of faith, and must never be talked down to.
The catechist is a servant of a message that is not his or her own, and together with the child must humbly listen to God’s word.
The child must be given the opportunity to discover the truth on as deep a level as possible.
Prayer, contemplation, and silence are natural components of the child’s religious life, and must be honored.
Providing a joyful journey for the child and the adult is the essence of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Montessori educational principles underlie the methodology of the Good Shepherd program. A trained teacher/catechist prepares a special environment for the children’s work, worship, and reflection. Catechetical materials allow the children to work independently once the materials have been presented.

Children from 3 to 6 years of age have demonstrated a particular sensitivity to the following points: Jesus Christ as the “Good Shepherd” who protects His sheep and calls them each by name; Eucharist as the greatest gift of the love of the Father; Jesus Christ as the “light of the world” and Baptism as the act with which this light is given.

Liturgical year vestments_atriumThe Catechesis provides close links to scripture and liturgy—with a special emphasis on Scripture. Materials on the life of Christ and his teachings help make the mystery of God concrete for the child. The geography materials establish Jesus as a real person in time and space and Israel as the land through which God realized salvation for all. Infancy narratives announce the Incarnation with the words of Scripture, moving from the Annunciation, to the Birth of Christ, to the Flight into Egypt. The models of Jerusalem and of the empty tomb are the starting points for the Paschal narratives and the child’s celebration of the Easter mystery.

Selected parables serve as keys to unlock the mystery of the kingdom of God and to nurture the child’s natural sense of wonder. The 3-6 year old child enters the mystery of the Mass through the most important gestures including the preparation of the chalice, the epiclesis and offering, and the gesture of peace. From these gestures the Mass emerges as the Sacrament of the Gift. The child becomes acquainted with the historical character of the liturgy through the events of the Last Supper, Christ’s death, and His resurrection.

Materials that embody the liturgical colors and calendar situate the child in the church year. A prayer corner also reflects the liturgical cycle with appropriate colors, prayers, songs, banners, and readings to enhance the rituals and celebrations of the seasons.

The Atrium “The Atrium” is the name for the prepared environment offered to the children in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The atrium is intended to offer a “retreat center” atmosphere for children. It is a place where children experience the joy of falling in love with God.

Portions of the text on this page are taken from the booklet, “The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd,” published by the National Center for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Oak Park, IL.

For more information on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd please visit www.cgsusa.org.