“Help me to come closer to God by myself.”

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a faith formation process which began in the fall of 2009 at Saint Fidelis. It is supplemented with our Pflaum resources for first grade to meet diocesan guidelines.

CGS was developed over sixty years ago by Sofia Cavalletti, a Hebrew and biblical scholar from Rome.  Together with Dr. Gianna Giobbi, who trained with Maria Montessori, and Dr. Silvana Montanaro, a child development specialist, Cavalletti developed a program for 3-12 year olds on church doctrine, the Bible and the Holy Mass with a hands-on approach using the Montessori method. Children are grouped based on age, with three different levels – Level I for 3-6 yrs., Level II for 6-9 yrs., and Level III for 9-12 yrs.  For more on CGS see the national website:

Why start a program for three year-olds?

  • At this age, children are developmentally ready and anxious to form a deeper relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who calls them by name.
  • Children of this age are deeply connected to God; they can easily fall in love with Jesus and begin a life-long relationship with our Good Shepherd.
  • Waiting until the child is 6 or 7 would mean passing this sensitive period for the personal relationship with Jesus and jumping into the moral reasoning stage first.  Without a foundation of love, the law becomes an obligation instead of a gift and a response.

What is an Atrium?  Why isn’t it called a classroom?

  • As in the ancient church tradition of having the catechumenate meet in the atrium of a church, the Good Shepherd environment is called an atrium.
  • It is a specially prepared room with beautiful hand-made child-size materials.
  • We have two rooms that are specially prepared for Level I, ages 3-6.
  • We have two room for Level II, grades 1 and 2 with “bigger” materials and reflections.

What do children do in the atrium?

In the atrium, children fall in love with Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  The atrium experience is the foundation for a life-long relationship with God which is then lived out in the Church community. Children live the central mysteries of our faith by working with and reflecting upon materials that revolve around the life of Christ, liturgical colors, geography, the altar and the Eucharist, the Gospels of the birth, passion and resurrection of Jesus,  Advent prophecies, the parable of the Good Shepherd, the Kingdom parables, and Baptism.  Initially, the core essentials of the faith are presented which can then be built upon in subsequent years.  Time spent working with materials, generally child-sized models, allows the child to meditate and pray on the concept which has been presented.

When is CGS offered for children at our parish?

Sunday 9:15am -10:45 a.m – Levels I & II – (ages 3 thru grade 3)
Monday 4:00 – 5:30 – Levels I (ages 3-6)
Monday 5:45 – 7:15 – Levels I & II (ages 3 thru grade 3)
Tuesday 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. – Level I & II (ages 3 thru grade 3)


Who teaches the children?

In the atrium, Christ is the teacher.  St. Paul said “It is Christ who teaches, not I.”  The catechist, who gives presentations to small groups of children or individually, is seen as part of the material of the room, and not the leader of a class room. Time spent working with materials, generally child-sized models, allows the child to meditate and pray on the concept which has been presented.  The child is given this personal work time so that the Holy Spirit can be the inner teacher.  “I will send you an advocate… the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth”.

What is a catechist?

The catechist is one who echoes the Word of God.  The catechist has the following tasks:

  • to proclaim the most essential points of the Christian message
  • to listen to the Word of God with the children
  • to observe the children in order to know their needs
  • to prepare materials and the environment to aid the child’s reflection and meditation

The catechist, as all parish volunteers, must complete diocesan Safe Environment requirements.

The formation of the catechist is of prime importance. In order to be with the children in the atrium, a catechist must take a formation course where all the “presentations” are modeled by a master catechist/formation leader and much time is spent on reflection upon the scripture. Catechists who fulfill all the requirements of the CGS course will receive their Basic Certification from the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Catechists taking Level II or III courses will receive their Advanced Certification for Catechists.

What does a CGS course for adults involve:

  • A formation course for Level I includes at least 90 hours of presentations and reflections which model the presentations for children.  Adult reflections lead to a deeper understanding of the Bible and the Holy Mass.  Catechists also need to spend time in observing a Montessori preschool as well as practicing presentations (lessons) and working in an atrium with children.
  • Level II courses are usually 120 hours because there are deeper meditations and more presentations.
  • Level III courses are usually 200 hours which involve deeper reflections on Old Testament, Rites of the Sacraments, and in-depth study of the Liturgy.
  • Courses are offered at St. Fidelis Parish throughout the year.  Everyone is welcome to participate. Courses are listed on the parish website as well as the national CGS website:

Comments from adults who have taken the CGS courses:

  • If you want to find God, this is the course!
  • It was really exceptional in its retreat-like atmosphere and deeper experience of Christ’s love
  • I watched her actually demonstrate how it is done with the children. I didn’t just learn about Good Shepherd. The observation touched something much deeper in me
  • It’s not just for children, it is for adults!  It’s not a method, it’s a way of life!

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Mt 19:14

Contact Celine Mitchell at the Faith Formation office for a tour of the atrium or for information on CGS:  724-482-2362