The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach to the religious formation of children (birth-12) and adults. One of the key features of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the use of catechetical materials specially designed for children. Another feature is the use of a prepared environment (atrium) for children's religious growth. At this time, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is realized in many parishes within Canada (see Find an Atrium).
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Office co-sponsors, along with
Continuing Education, University of St. Michael's College, an adult formation programme for parents, teachers, and catechists. This certificate programme includes seminars on the religious needs and capacities of children as well as hands-on experience with various catechetical materials that help form the children's relationship with God based on a Biblical-Liturgical foundation of faith and tradition.
If we want to help the child draw nearer to God, we should, with patience and courage, seek to go always closer to the vital nucleus of things. This requires study and prayer. The child will be our teacher if we know how to observe children.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a child-centered, child-directed, soundly traditional method of introducing children to the mystery of God. It nourishes the religious needs and capacities of all children regardless of culture or background.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), for children birth-12 years of age originated in 1954 in Rome, inspired by the Montessori principles of education. CGS soon spread to diverse social environments and, since 1969, to many different countries and cultures as well: Africa, Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Germany, Paraguay, Austria, Poland, Norway and Canada.
It has been observed that children, even from the earliest age, eagerly seek religious experience and find fulfillment in it only if they are helped to live this experience in its deepest, most essential elements, without any "childish" overtones. When these conditions are present, young children live their relationship with God in enchanted wonder and profound joy which gives peace, in the satisfaction – it could be said
– of a deep and vital need.
In our view, the "vital need" is for relationship, which the Bible expresses as "covenant". It is the joy of the children's encounter with God that has given birth to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd which, always and everywhere, is nourished by the same joy.
It has also been observed that children of the same developmental stage respond to certain themes of the Christian Message in the same way, though belonging to different cultural backgrounds. So it was that a curriculum gradually took shape, which appears to respond to the child's deep religious needs according to the various age levels.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is not primarily academic in character. Rather, it seeks to be an experience of life and education of faith in the celebration of an encounter with the Father, in listening to Jesus, the one Teacher, and in obedience to the Spirit.