The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach to religious education and formation of children. It is rooted in the Scriptures, the liturgy of the Church and the educational principles of Maria Montessori. Children gather in an “Atrium”, which means a room especially prepared for them, it contains simple yet beautiful materials they use to help them absorb the most essential proclamations of the Christian faith. We hope that the Baptistry of St Anslem’s Church will become our “Atrium” at a later stage.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was developed by Sofia Cavalletti, an Italian Hebrew scripture scholar, building on the work and methods of Maria Montessori, the Catechesis seeks to give children the guidance and vocabulary which enable them to become aware of their relationship with God and give expression to it. With the Catechesis we help each child to continue to fall in love with God while building community among peers. In one of her books she explains that the Atrium
… is a place where the child comes to know the great realities of…life as a Christian, but also and above all, a place where the child begins to live these realities in meditation and prayer. There is nothing of the academic classroom about the atrium; it is not a place for religious instruction but religious life. (Sofia Cavalletti, RPOC, p. 56)
The Missionaries of Charity (Sisters of Mother Teresa) have already had the first catechetical session with children ages 3-5 in the Rectory of Saint Anselm’s. They will keep on offering their time on Mondays at 4.30 pm. For further information and details please get in touch with Sr. Irene, MC or Sr Rosalind, MC (Tel: 0208-574-1892).
Jo, on the other hand, had been introduced to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in 1998 while conducting a Montessori workshop at Ashland University, Ohio, USA. She was so inspired, enthused and overjoyed by this beautiful apporach to religion that she began to correspond about the Catechesis with a catechist Lyn Sorenson (USA). Culhane read the essential books by Cavalletti and Gobbi and had a carpenter make some materials. After much deliberation the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was introduced in Ireland in 2000. An Irish Presentation nun, Sister Evelyn O’ Boyle, who lives and works in Arizona, was invited to St Nicholas Montessori College, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin to present the Catechesis of theGood Shepherd to a small group of interested ladies. She returned the following two years to conduct further training. Some of those interested ladies continue to meet once a month to study and develop their teaching skills in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
In 2002 the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (USA) was holding training courses for all three levels n Arizona. Jo went to complete her Level 1 training there and returned two years later to Atlanta, USA to complete Level II training (6-9 years) and to Seldon, Long Island, USA to complete Level III (9-12 years) in 2006/7. Finally, she became a Formation Leader in 2009. Today we have several Atria established in Ireland, in Dublin,Galway, Kerry and Sligo.
Jo visited Southall twice in the Autumn of 2012 and led the Missionaries of Charity through the whole programme covering Level 1 (90 hours).