The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a Montessori based religious education program based on the study of Christian scripture and Christian liturgy. It is centered around a prepared environment called the “Atrium”. The atrium is a place for religious life where the catechist prepares an environment that “calls forth” the child’s rather than “pours in” information. The Atrium is a place of work and prayer that fosters the relationship between God and the child and offers opportunities for the child to listen, work, sing, pray, wonder, and respond to the Word of God at his or her own space.
All materials in the Atrium are linked to Biblical and Liturgical source. The Atrium is made up of several different focus areas. There is an altar complete with chalice, paten, altar cloth, candles, and a crucifix. The Work of the altar conveys the centrality of the Eucharist. A prayer table is where the children and the catechist gather to pray. There are miniature vestments to help the child understand the seasons of the church year. Maps of Israel in the geography area help the child to understand that Jesus was a real person that once lived on earth. The life of Jesus is taught through the Christmas. Passion and Resurrection stories in the form of dioramas. The teachings of Jesus are presented through the Parables of the Kingdom and the Parable of Good Shepherd and the Lost Sheep. There are also practical life lessons in which the child has the opportunity to practice folding, pouring, spooning, polishing, and eye dropping. Each practical life lesson leads toward future lessons in the atrium. A great example in eye dropping that leads to the later pouring of water into wine in the chalice.
All materials are openly displayed after they have been presented so that children can explore at their own pace. The Atrium is a place of purposeful activity and quiet contemplation that belongs to the children. Being their space, the children also help to take care of the area by dusting the room, sweeping, and taking care of the plants. An interpersonal relationship is always a mystery, especially when the relationship is between God and the child. The Atrium fosters this relationship and also prepares the child for active involvement in the larger worshipping community.
The program is offered on two levels. Level I for 3-6 year olds and Level II for 6-9 year olds. The scope and sequence of the program requires that Level I is to be completed prior to participating in Level II.
The Atrium is located on the main floor of the Activity Building opposite the Chapel.