Comments on Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

We have heard on occasion about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and I found the program in a catalog today. If you have any experience with this program could you please provide input? Is it orthodox? Does it really teach the Faith? One of my concerns is that I found it in the Liturgical Training Publication catalog. LTP has never been known for its orthodoxy so seeing it there makes me wary.


32 Responses to Comments on Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

  1. Fred K. says:

    Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is preschool catechism based on the work of Maria Montessori. The catechesis has a good reputation in my area for solid teaching, but I’ve not had the opportunity to take advantage of it.

    • Jessica says:

      It is not JUST preschool. The program is designed for ages 3-12 (level 1 is ages 3-6; level 2 is ages 6-9; level 3 is ages 9-12), but adults gain so much from it themselves.

  2. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd enjoys a favorable reputation here in Central Massachusetts among orthodox Catholics. I am not familiar with the material myself, but may be looking into it in the coming years for our young daughters.

    An unrelated query. Does your store carry Rosary making supplies?

  3. Cathy Johanni says:

    I have been involved with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for several years and I believe it to be wonderfully faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. To me, it seems to present the truth and beauty of Scripture and liturgy in a way that is accessible and meaningful to children (and to the adults that humbly serve them). I find it matches with the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a marvelous way. It has been a blessing for me, my husbnad and my five chidlren. This is a pedagogy and approach — not a boxed curriculum. Those who enter into it as children or as catechists are formed in such a way as to be ready to receive with joy the proclamation of the Kingdom. I highly reccommend visiting an “atrium”. Blessings!

  4. emily says:

    Wonderfrul and faithful to the Church! Immerses children into the faith by practicing their faith instead of simply reading chapters and answering questions. A true, Catholic program. I would recommend it to all parents teaching thier children the faith.

  5. Brigitte Youngblood says:

    Like most things, there is a good and bad implementation of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the wonderful thing about this method is the fact that the catechist is not there to be a teacher. Rather, they are there to provide an environment where the Christ is teacher. They read scripture to the non-reader, in such a way as to teach reverence and they utilize the Liturgy to enrich and allow the mysterious language of the “sign” (typology) to be that wisdom which leads to truth but never attempts to circumscribe it. In this way, proper implementation of this program, actually teaches humility and prayerful virtues (comfort with silence and wonder rather than prattling off facts.) As you can see, how faithful CGS is depends on how faithful the catechists are to the gentle method, untainted liturgy and a good translation of scripture.

    For those of us who are from the British-style boarding school. It is a difficult transition. I say it is one worth doing because the wonder about God’s gifts is the most effective way to seduce us to get to know the Giver. The moral age (7) is where the CGS method cleverly takes that seduction to the moral life as the enamored child asks “how can I live successfully with these gifts” rather than “what do I have to do to stay out of trouble” My catechist formation leader has helped me see that “we go toward the light” With love drawing us (child and catechist alike.)

    I also want to warn that finding good catechist trainers was a difficult and frustrating process for me. I spent many a hour in training classes biting my lip and wishing they would follow Montessori’s principle of “count your words” and “essentiality, essentiality, essentiality”.

  6. Brigitte Youngblood says:

    By the way, you can’t carry CGS as a product. It is unpublished. The best you could hope to do to help those implementing it is to sell Fontanini figures at a hugely reduced price. If there was one central place to get a raised surface map of the holy land, that would be nice. It would also be good if you found a decent supplier of miniature mass furnishings. Some other web sites already carry some of these things. Be sure to ask someone who has been working this method for years if an item is suitable before you offer it.

  7. oonagh Ryan-King says:

    COTGS is so good that many Episcopal parishes in the US use it instead of “the more Episco version” called “Godly Play.” The basis, as someone said, is Montessori’s work with the spirituality of childhood and children.

  8. oonagh Ryan-King says:

    If you’re unable to find the “stuff” for CGS (I seem to remember the characters and objects ARE made for the program and better-or at least different-from GP. But that was years ago. If you’re unable to find books, templates, etc, check the Godly Play or Center for Theology of Childhood (Jerome Berryman) websites.

  9. oonagh Ryan-King says:

    Okay, I just noted your concerns and questions about ONLY carrying books, programs, etc. that are RC orthodox. Somehow that sounds ominous–like you would refuse to carry any of the works of Henri Nouen because he was a homosexual man.

  10. “Somehow that sounds ominous–like you would refuse to carry any of the works of Henri Nouen because he was a homosexual man.”

    Why is only carrying items that promote the Faith a problem?

    And what proof do you have that Henri Nouen was homosexual? Was he actively homosexual or celibate?

  11. Teri says:

    Last June I finished my class to become a catachist and last Sunday was my first time trying to put into practice what I leaned at the Cathechesis of the Good Shepherd. It is wonderful and scary and a lot of work – well worth it I hope, if the children do respond and grow in the faith. On a practical note does anyone have names, contacts for people who might make the wooden figures for the presentations?

  12. Kristina says:

    Godly Play is a very different program from the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. A better site to visit for information about CGS is the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd ( or the Center for Children and Theology ( Both website offer several books and publications that give more insite into CGS.

  13. Nicolle says:

    Yes, I am very curious about the comment concerning Henri Nouen. This is the very first time I have ever heard that some think that he was homosexual. Please, if you will, share your information concerning this claim.

  14. Flora says:

    I have been trained as a catechist (100 hours of training and preparation) in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and have taught 3 to 6 year olds for several years. This program is highly orthodox because it emphasizes the importance of bringing children to the primary sources: Sacred Scripture and Liturgy. Children as early as 3 years of age are presented with scripture passages directly from the Bible, not paraphrased or rephrased in “kid language.”

    The goal is to foster comtemplation and prayer through mediation on the Scripture and Liturgy. The most essential moments of the Liturgy are highlighted to young child, including such moments as Epiclesis, The Gesture of Peace, The Mingling and of the water and the wine, and Lavabo. The children are read scriptural accounts of the principal events in Christ’s life: Annunciation, Visitation, Birth and Adoration of the shephards and magi, Last Supper, death and resurrection. They also presented with parables that Jesus taught (mustard seed, grain of wheat, pearl, Good Shepherd, Hidden Treasure). Thus they are fostered in scriptural and liturgical literacy.

    Since you mentioned your concern about finding it in the LTP catalog, I will also resort to some name dropping. In our local parish, people who are active leaders within Regnum Christi, the Legionnaires of Christ, Catholic World Mission, Familia, and the National Catholic Register have all had their children in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program and have enthusiastically supported CGS.

  15. Lisa Sagers says:

    There was an article about this in Sower magazine. It was praising the program. Sower magazine is very solid. A subcription to Sower magazine was given to all who attended the St John Bosco conference at Franciscan University of Stuebenville this past July.

  16. Denise says:

    I’m from a very conservative Biblical background, and I believe you will find the Catechesis materials to be quite orthodox– though people of all theological stripes embrace it.

    I am a trained catechist for 9-12 year olds– I would not consider myself an expert because the material is so rich, and yes, Maria Montessori is a bit hard to live up to! I spent many years teaching in a more “top-down” model, and have taught college level courses, so it is hard to use less words sometimes.

    My favorite parts Atrium III training include really, really meaty and hands-on materials to help children make their way around the Bible, and really, really meaty time charts to help us place ourselves in the map of God’s salvation history. I have a 20-foot timeline of “The History of the jewish People” that I’ve used to teach seminary students as well as kids, and the amazement and “aha!” experience is just the same. I’ve taken seminary classes myself, and I’ve learned so very much more from The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. It’s very accessible and beautiful.

  17. Phillip says:

    Henri Nouwen is dead. It does not matter what is sexual orientation was because he does not have one now.

    And so what if he was a homosexual? Such discussion is simply gossip, in line with the claims that Jesus was married. It makes no difference if he was married or not. There is nothing in the Gospel that says anything about it. Jesus being married or celibate is conjecture and therefore gossip.

    Henri Nouwen was a priest, and now he is a saint. that’s what matters.


  18. Beate says:

    Like others have said, CGS is a wonderful program. However, please don’t think that it is only for preschoolers. While Level 1 encompasses the 3 to 6 year old age range. Level 2 is for the 6 to 9 year old child, and Level 3 is said to go from 9 to 12, but can be used for older children. As far as materials, it is preferrable that they are made by the catechists themselves instead of being purchased. While this is labor intensive, it is also a very reflective part of being a part of an atrium. Also, if you do look at the program, I’d encourage you to go to for information.

  19. Kay says:

    After reding “The Religious Potential of the Child,” by Sofia Cavaletti, I am concerned. I have not had the cgs training (too expensive.) But there are some things that concerned me in this book, and sounded a bit new age. Maybe a lot new age.
    I would recommend reading this book very carefully, and form your own opinion.
    God Bless

  20. Ron says:

    I stumbled upon this blog doing a google search and would like to say a few things about the comments here and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) program. I have read all of the comments, and think they are wonderful. I have been involved with CGS for a few years now and have been trained in all 3 levels.

    Now for my comments on the comments…

    – CGS is only partly based upon Maria Montessorri. Its other (more important) foundations are Liturgy and Scripture! Thus, how could it not be orthodox.
    – CGS began in Rome when a bishop (or cardinal) asked Sophia Cavalletti, a biblical scholar of the Old Testament, to teach young children about God and Jesus. Drawing on the work of Montessori, Sophia and her friend, Gianni Gobbi a trained Montesorrian, developed the CGS program over many years. CGS is now in over 20 countries! Sophia’s atrim (classroom) is still open after 50 years!
    – this program is Christian formation for children AND adults
    – CGS believes that children are already in a relationship with God and Jesus, the CGS program fosters that relationship
    – Most of the lessons taught are direct readings from Scripture. (Those not most are Montessori based activities that promote children learning; such as how to be quite, put away your things, etc. In the first level, children do (Montesorrian) practical life activities so they can control their bodies, so that they can be quiet, so that they can listen to God!
    – another informative site for CGS is
    – These things have happened during my time teaching this program:
    – parents have told me that their children have cried when they find out they aren’t going to CGS
    on a given week
    – the classrooms of children ages 4-7 are typically quiet as they work with materials
    – child has wondered what the Kingdom of God looks like
    – child has written many times, ‘Jesus loves me’
    – children love working with the mini altar in the class room
    – constantly draw pictures of the cross
    – here in New England, both the Catholic church and the Episcopal church use it more and more in their dioceses. In fact in training, many classes have a mix of both faiths. Teachers are of either faith as well.
    – during the training courses, any and all liturgical differences between Catholic and Episcopal are mentioned and taught to students.
    – training can be expensive, but there is grant money to lessen the cost for the individual
    – I would agree that Godly Play (GP) is different!
    – This program has deepened my relationship with God and Jesus.

    Sorry for being long winded.

    In His Peace,


  21. lisa crutchfield says:

    Has anyone had success using the atrium method with children with special needs?

  22. Ginger says:

    Yes, I have used the CGS method with special needs children. We had several autistic children between ages 4-12, also some down syndrome, and MR students with various disabilities (one non-verbal). We had 3 – 4 adults familiar with some aspect of special needs work and about 6 – 10 children attending faithfully. CGS works well because it focuses on the need of the child where that child is in his/her personal relationship with God. The children in our atrium were welcomed and invited to choose individual work from the shelves when they arrived. The lessons follow the Liturgical Year. The last 20 minutes we shared with the children a brief scripture using the CGS material that we had made and a closing prayer or song. The material was then made available for the children to work with individually when they came to the atrium the following weeks. The children loved coming and grew to understand one anothers needs (learned how to get along with kindness and loving acceptance). These children showed CGS to be a ‘living catechesis’ experience where they could come to know Jesus in a very personal relationship.

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  26. Erin Cherry says:

    Hi, I am the mother of a child who attends Catachesis. He almost four and he hates it. He cries and tries to leave. There are a number of other children who cry and will not attend either. I decided to sit in on a number of lessons to see why he’s having trouble. I was deeply concerned to see that all summer they did not learn about Jesus or hear scripture, just the liturgical colors of the year. Over and over again. Children who cried or talked were encouraged to go back to their mothers. The songs were contrived and melodically unmemorable (I’m a music teacher). A lot of time seemed to spent pouring beans into small containers and washing windows. They were asked very vague questions ie “What is the light?” to which the children didn’t have answers.

    I am worried that Catachesis is a missed opportunity to learning about Jesus. As a child, I learned many of the great stories of the old testament and parables of the new. This knowledge has deeply informed how I think about my own life and challanges and even how I understand literature. I’ve talked with our priest about my concerns and he told me to trust that Catachesis gets better as my child gets older.

    Is it being done “wrong” at my church? I’ve been a teacher for 14 years and I don’t understand what I’m seeing. Can someone please advise me?

    • Jessica says:

      Something indeed doesn’t sound quite right there. The children should be having their needs met – yes, there are always some children who have a harder time separating from mom, but that is a different matter.

      Yes, there is “exercises of practical life” – but these are meant to meet the needs of the child (a Montessori principle), connect home life to the atrium (these are familiar activities), help them function within the atrium (this is their space to care for) — I have seen atriums where there is not enough of this work and many where this is either too much emphasis or just too many options available.

      EVERY atrium session should include a reading from Scripture – whether at the prayer table or during a presentation. No session should pass without at least one (longer) passage or several shorter passages being heard by the children.

      Yes we do ask “Who is the Light?” (not “what” – if they used that word, that is incorrect) – but only AFTER we have read several Scripture passages about Jesus being the light. Then, it becomes an obvious answer – and discussion point. If the children are not answering, then the question should not yet be asked because the catechist has not shared the appropriate Scripture and Church teaching on this.

      An entire summer spent on the liturgical colors is boring. Period. That is a one-session lesson that is reviewed from time to time, should lead to work with the liturgical calendar, the names of the two main vestments of the priest (chasuble, stole) and later the other vestments of the priest (cincture and alb at the 3-6 year old group, additional pieces at the 6-9 age).

      I am curious what songs you heard them sing. While I am not enamored with all the recommended songs, most are musically sound and the children love to sing them.

      At the 3-6 year old level (level 1), the core Old Testament passage are the prophecies – generally done during Advent. This is troubling to many people, but makes sense in the bigger picture. At level 1, we are focusing on what the children can see and experience: the presence of Jesus Christ – thus we focus on His life, death and resurrection, the prophecies that preceded Him, and our life in the Church centered around the events of His life. So the focus is on being in relationship with the Good Shepherd.

      At level 2, we have several timelines that tell the story of salvation history from beginning (Creation), through the Redemption, and to the end (Parousia). We begin filling in a decent amount of Old Testament and a whole lot of New Testament; as well as delving into greater details of the Mass – bringing it all together from level 1 and going deeper. We then add in moral formation and sacramental preparation – taking that relationship we have with Jesus and now emphasizing that we need to respond – for now, that response is “to remain” (True Vine), with a lot of guidance as to how to remain in God’s love.

      Then in level 3, we really delve into the Old Testament with typology studies on Creation, Sin, Flood, Abraham, and Moses – establishing a pattern of studying the Old Testament in light of the New, and looking to what is to come (a style heavily endorsed by the Catholic Church). We also delve into every single prayer of the Mass, study the 7 sacraments, and go very deep with morality and our developing active response in remaining in (and many times, returning to) the True Vine.

      But this all presumes that the catechists are both properly trained AND have the proper materials/assistance available to them.

  27. Erin Cherry says:

    Jessica, thank you so much for your insights. You have given me much food for thought. My son went without only a small amount of anxiety this morning and as a new session, with many new children, was starting this morning I decided it wasn’t the best time to talk with the teacher or observe. Apparently some of the teachers attended a training this summer so I’m hopeful that things will improve. I just want my little boy to get more than he has from Catechesis.

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