"Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years."
Catechism of the Catholic Church #2226
What is the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (“CGS”) is a rich Montessori approach to religious education and spiritual formation. It engages children in age appropriate, hands-on materials based on Sacred Scripture and the Liturgy. CGS can offer three levels of catechesis, including Level 1 for ages 3-6, Level 2 for ages 6-9, and Level 3 for ages 9-12.
How is it different?
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd differs from other approaches in a number of ways. For example, children begin CGS in their most formative years, ideally as young as age 3, or even a few months before. Unlike "textbook and lecture" approaches, CGS is more like a 2-hour weekly guided retreat in a deeply contemplative environment, in which children immerse themselves in age-appropriate work materials. While beginning to educate children's minds in the Faith, at least as importantly CGS helps them cultivate deep, lifelong relationships with God that inspire them to want to learn about the Faith. Hundreds of thousands of families who have participated in CGS since its inception in Rome in the 1950s have seen the distinctly profound effects of this approach on their children throughout their lives.
Is it approved by the diocese?
Yes. To read the official statement from the bishop, click here.
Doesn't the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd require a fully dedicated space?
No. Of course many ministries would love to have their own space dedicated full time to them, and CGS is easier to implement in a dedicated space. Nevertheless, most parishes don't have much, if any, unused space. So CGS catechists and Atria in hundreds of parishes around the country share space with other ministries, and store their materials when catechesis is not in session.
Can the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd work in a very large parish?
Absolutely. Some of the largest parishes in some of the largest dioceses in the world offer CGS. In a growing number of dioceses, CGS is the standard approach to faith formation up to age 6, or even up to age 9.
Is the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd “liberal” or “conservative”?
No. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach to religious education and spiritual formation based on Montessori principles. Some programs, including the Greater Sacramento Atrium, place a high priority on fidelity to the Magisterium. At the same time, even many protestant congregations have adopted the CGS approach and modified the materials to reflect their creeds.
What does it take to adopt the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in a parish or school?
Like most things that are worthwhile, adopting CGS requires a significant commitment. Most importantly, it requires a substantial time investment on the part of catechists and participating families, as well as a designated space (called an “Atrium”). Each of the three levels of catechist certification requires 100 hours of initial training, plus on-going planning and formation. (Catechists must be certified in Level 1 before training in Level 2, and certified in Level 2 before training in Level 3.) Crafting the many materials for the Atrium requires much time from many people with diverse skills. Although there are costs for materials and training, these costs are dramatically reduced in areas like Sacramento where local trainers are available. For more information on what it takes to adopt CGS in a parish setting, click here.
Does CGS catechist training meet the requirements for Basic Catechist Certification?
Not by itself. CGS focuses deeply on Christian formation and religious education for the youngest children, rather than broadly covering all the topics relevant to all ages. Thus, catechists seeking Basic Certification from the diocese must supplement CGS training with certain other courses.