What is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS)?
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a religious experience involving children and adults in which the religious values of childhood, primarily contemplation and enjoyment of God, are predominant. This Montessori-based approach to religious formation is rooted in Sacred Scripture, liturgy, and respect for the child’s rich relationship with God. CGS believes that God and the child have a unique relationship with one another, particularly before the age of six and that growth of this relationship should be assisted by the adult but directed by the Spirit of God. We believe that children need their own place to foster the growth of that relationship and that the child's spiritual growth is best served through tangible but indirect means.
What is the Atrium?
Central to the CGS method is the specially prepared environment filled with beautiful materials called an Atrium. The name come from the place where catechumens were prepared for joining the Church in the earliest days of Christian history. The Atrium is a place of quiet and meditative discovery where children listen to the good Shepherd's voice during catechetical presentations and can meditate on God's Word while working. Because children learn by using their hands, the personal work of the child with the materials allows them to enter more deeply into contemplation, nurturing their relationship with God. For the child, the Atrium is a place of preparation for involvement in the larger worshiping community.
What does a 90-minute session look like?
CGS aims to nourish a relationship that already exists between God and the child wherein the Atrium is a place of prayer and can be compared to a retreat house facilitating recollection and silence. A typical day in the Atrium includes:
• A Presentation on grace and courtesy, practical life, Scripture, or Liturgy.
• A significant period of time for children to work with materials of their own choice.
• A gathering time of worship at the prayer table
How did CGS get started at St. Joe's? A brief history.
- 2021-2022 school year:
A number of parents from the parish (with and without students in school) informally discussed with Sister Fiat Marie, who was then teaching 2nd grade in school and CCD and familiar with the program, if she thought there might be the possibility of bringing the program to St. Joseph’s.
- Spring 2022:
Since a significant number of parents were interested in helping to develop the program, they met as a group with Fr. McCabe and school administration to see about the feasibility of creating an atrium (space for students to work and pray with the materials of CGS).The group received approval to use a corner of the cafeteria to create an atrium with the understanding that materials would need to be funded apart from the school or parish budget.
- Summer 2022:
Parents worked with teachers to plan for furnishing of the atrium in the cafeteria. Information about CGS was posted in the bulletin and school newsletters throughout the summer and into the fall, as well as requests for donation of materials. Due to the strong response, the atrium was furnished with everything needed to be operable for the 2022-2023 school year for Level II (ages 6-9).
- 2022-2023 School year:
Since Sister John Marion was the only teacher trained in CGS at the parish, students in 2nd grade, both school and CCD, had scheduled times in the atrium once a week for 60-90 minutes. Parents volunteered to assist with these sessions. In school, while one class participated in CGS, the other class received instruction in science, social studies and some of their reading skills. In CCD, students usually had atrium time and sometimes had specific lessons in the classroom, especially as they got closer to the time to receive sacraments (Penance and Eucharist)
- December 2022:
CGS Open House for the parish after weekend Masses so people could see the atrium and learn more about the program.
- Spring 2023:
Parents instrumental in supporting CGS looked into what it would take to provide the materials necessary to include Level I (ages 3-6) sessions in the atrium. Due to the strong interest among parents, materials and donations came in sufficiently to provide for this Level for the 2023-2024 academic year. Teachers and parents worked together to create a schedule for the upcoming year that would work during the school day to provide atrium sessions for students and a volunteer schedule to support the program. CCD would continue to use the atrium on Wednesday after school and parents of children in the parish whose children were not in school could schedule other times for atrium sessions.
- Summer 2023:
Five teachers from school and four parents were trained in Level I CGS. Three parents also completed their Level II training and volunteered at St. Joseph's.
- 2023-2024 School year:
As a natural progression, 2nd grade would continue to have CGS sessions (at Level II), while grades PreK and K would begin to have Level I sessions. Enough teachers and volunteers were obtained to add these two grades. Future grades would be determined by how the program works this year and what needs arise.
A tentative schedule has been created for the year with the input of teachers and parents who have been instrumental in bringing CGS to the parish. Sessions will likely start up in September and be modified to fit the needs of all involved. Teachers will be sharing more details with parents at Back-to-School nights, but are more than willing to answer questions any time. Some FAQs below may be helpful to you. In addition, feel free to email the following teachers or parents for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Joseph's TENTATIVE* 2023-2024 Sessions:
2nd Grade CCD
*This is a tentative schedule and will not be implemented until parents have been informed and briefed by their children’s teachers with the opportunity for feedback and dialogue.
Official CGS Website:
For even more information, visit the Official CGS Website.