We believe that children of all ages have a unique relationship with God, and assisting even the youngest children in spiritual and moral growth is a crucial aspect of our mission. In accordance with both our Montessori and Catholic beliefs, we have adopted the teachings of “The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd” to support the spiritual life of our students.
Inspired by the profound religious intuition of children, the Catechesis curriculum was designed to combine the self-teaching principles of Montessori with the theological moorings of Hebrew scholarship, scripture studies, and Roman Catholic liturgy and doctrine. Children are guided by adults in their exploration, but are directed by the Spirit of God within.
At all levels, prayer and gratitude are incorporated into our Montessori classrooms, where children spend most of their day. Beginning at the Primary level, students attend Mass monthly and visit the school Atrium weekly. The Atrium is a prepared environment specifically intended for the spiritual growth of children. The Atrium helps to nourish children’s relationship with God by:
• Allowing for a period of retreat, facilitating introspection and silence.
• Encouraging religious life through community and worship.
• Providing concrete, tactile work through which children may converse with God.
• Preparing the child for involvement in the larger worshiping community.
As in a Montessori classroom, the Atrium is filled with three-dimensional, finely constructed materials that are attractively displayed, inviting children to deepen their understanding of the day’s discussion at their own rhythm. The materials represent particular scripture passages or items that can be found in Baptismal and Eucharistic rites, including a model altar and Baptismal font. Shelves include maps of Israel and miniature environments representing elements of the parables, Gospel narratives, and historical events from the life of Christ.
The catechist, or spiritual guide, nurtures the child’s intuitive understanding of God by preparing the Atrium environment and giving presentations from scripture and liturgy. Rather than providing all the answers, the catechist reflects with the child on the mysteries of transcendence.
For the Young Child (Ages 3-6)
Catechesis centers on the Parable of the Good Shepherd. Young children are particularly interested in the most essential elements of our faith—the announcement of God’s love through the life and resurrection of Christ.
For the Elementary Child (Ages 6-12)
Spiritual inquiry at the Elementary age responds to the older child’s imagination and need to more deeply probe his or her relationship with God, family, friends and the larger community.
For the Adolescent (Ages 12-15)
As students embark upon adolescence, greater emphasis is placed on the response to God’s love. Adolescents are encouraged to recognize the responsibilities that come with receiving God’s gifts and to envision themselves as collaborators in a life committed to spiritual work and understanding.
Resources for Parents
The following books are available in the SCM Parent Library. Just sign out the book and it is yours to borrow. The books related to the Atrium are located on the top shelf.
Montessori and Religious Formation:
The Child in the Church
by Maria Montessori
The Mass Explained to Children by Maria Montessori
Introductory Books on the Atrium
The Good Shepherd and the Child: A Joyful Journey by Sofia Cavalletti and others
The Religious Potential of the Child by Sofia Cavalletti
Listening to God with Children by Gianna Gobbi
The Atrium of the Elementary Child (this book is Part II of Religious Potential of the Child above and should be read after Part I)
The Religious Potential of the Child: 6-12 Years Old by Sofia Cavalletti
There also are parent handouts on the prayer table in the Welcome Center and pamphlets on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at the front desk. Please visit www.cgsusa.org
for more information and resources.