The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd presents the most important realities of the Christian faith to the youngest members of the Church. It acknowledges that the young have a particular ability to recognize the presence of God in their deepest being, and that they are capable of developing a conscious and intimate relationship with Him. They need only guidance and vocabulary to become aware of their relationship with God and to give expression it.
The program was originally developed in Italy in 1954 by Dr. Sofia Caveletti who applied the educational principles of Maria Montesorri. It has since spread around the world and is used by many liturgical traditions including Lutheran, Anglican/Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist.
The Catechesis Atrium is more like a church than a classroom. It is less a place of instruction than a holy ground where Christ is encountered in word and action. It is a place that calls forth the child’s response rather than pouring in information. In it, the child seeks to find out who God is and how He loves us. It is a room of wonder.
The Atrium contains models of elements used in actual worship. Things they can touch, as the Apostles actually touched our Lord. The children become familiar with the parables, the prophecies, the geography of Israel, and the life of Christ.
Child-sized materials convey the essentials of the faith in a manner appropriate to the child’s development. The child is invited to work individually with the materials in a hands-on manner to internalize and respond to God in the personal manner that all Christians are called to.
Children from 3 to 6 years of age are especially sensitive to Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd who protects his sheep and calls each by name; to the Eucharist as the greatest gift of love of the Father; to the response human beings give to God; and to Jesus Christ as the light of the world.
St. Paul’s is a worshiping community rather than a programatic church with bowling leagues and men’s clubs, and yet the Catechesis program is the epitome of who we are. At the conclusion of each weekly Catechesis session, the children join the larger church family in the real presence of Christ, to receive His blessing in our common journey toward oneness with Him.