History of the Catechesis
It all began with Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori was the first woman physician in Italy. She began her medical career by successfully helping mentally handicapped children and later “normal” children in a slum area of Rome. With her trained scientist’s eye, Montessori discovered certain universal qualities in the children and developed the “Montessori Method” in which a prepared environment is created to stimulate the child’s development.
Maria Montessori was a devout Catholic. She felt that the faith could be presented to children at an early age. In 1915 she founded the first “atrium” where she introduced articles of the Mass, liturgical colors and the liturgical calendar. Maria Montessori passed away in 1952.
In 1954, a Catholic Scripture and Hebrew scholar named Sofia Cavalletti was asked by a friend to give her son a few religious lessons. Having no experience teaching children, Sofia reluctantly agreed. She chose to use the Jewish rabbinical method of meditation with her first student, a seven year old boy, who was initially lukewarm about the prospect of studying Scripture. Upon hearing Cavalletti’s reading of Genesis, he cried tears of joy.
Those tears amazed Sofia and began what we now know as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Sofia intuitively understood that every child has a deep and joyful relationship with God which should be watered and fed like a tender plant.
Sofia Cavalletti teamed up with Montessori teacher, Gianna Gobbi, who had studied directly under Maria Montessori. Together they began to pick up where Maria Montessori left off. They developed a program that incorporated Montessori principles such as using hands-on materials that meet the child’s developmental needs, acknowledging the child’s great capacity for concentration, and respecting the child's love of order and silence. They created simple materials that would help children grasp the message of Scripture and the Liturgy. Only materials that aroused much interest and deep joy were kept.
Through the years children have taken great delight in this method because it meets their internal need to know who God is and to be in a loving relationship with Him. Sophia is quoted as saying,
“…children come with joy to their religious instruction… We have established that children come to us as to a feast; and often, after two hours fully devoted to lessons, it is still quite an effort to get them to go home.”
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is offered all over the world! At last count it was being presented in 65 countries on five continents. CGS has also been adopted as a method of catechesis by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and is part of the formation of their sisters. And now, by God's grace, CGS is at St. Thomas More Parish in Omaha, Nebraska and is available to you!
"The most beautiful homily I ever witnessed" - Pope John Paul II when visiting an Atrium in Rome