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Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is our Christian formation program for children ages 3 through fifth or sixth grade.

Level I – ages 3 to Kindergarten
Level II – first through third grade
Level III – fourth through fifth or sixth grade

(Click each level to learn more)


* God and the child have a unique relationship with one another.
* The growth of this relationship should be assisted by the adult, but is directed by the Spirit of God within the Child.
* Children need their own place to foster the growth of that relationship.
* The child’s spiritual growth is best served through tangible but indirect means.

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  • What is an Atrium?
    The atrium was the place in the early church where the catechumens were prepared for baptism and life in the Christian community. It is the name that describes our classroom. For the child, the atrium is also a place of preparation for involvement in the larger worshiping community. The atrium is one of the supporting elements that helps the relationship between God and the child to flourish. Everything is child sized in this sacred space and we enter into it and work within it as we do in the church sanctuary: peacefully, reverently, with wonder, hope, and joy. Shelves around the room are filled with materials designed to facilitate the child’s spiritual development. Lessons include maps of Israel, parables Jesus told, historical events from Scripture, liturgical colors and calendars, vestments of the priest, objects from Holy Eucharist and the Rite of Baptism. Art supplies and musical instruments allow the children to express themselves through writing, art, and song. Very young children are given the opportunity to practice practical life activities to aid their concentration for future lessons. Children learn to care for their environment. Presentations are given at appropriate times so children prepare for the great feasts and then celebrate them in the atrium. From the earliest years our children are gaining heart knowledge of God’s Word and the liturgy of the church.
  • Who or What is a Catechist?
    Each atrium has at least one teacher who has received leadership training in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd method. This teacher is called a catechist. Also in each atrium are other adults who have received assistant training. The catechist’s and assistant’s role is to prepare the environment and make lesson presentation that “call forth” the child’s desire to draw nearer to God. To strike the child’s imagination and ask questions that might lead the child to ever widening horizons. They listen with the child and together with the child ask, “God, who are you? How do you love us? What is the Kingdom of God like? What is our place in it? How do I remain close to you? What is my part in all of this?” The adult wonders with the child. Together they enjoy thinking about the questions generated by the Scriptures using the prepared environment as a developmental aid. The adults learn from the children and lessons as well.
  • What Materials are Used?
    Materials in the atrium are attractively and carefully displayed. Most items have been lovingly hand made by our parishioners. The most important characteristic of the materials is their close link to the biblical and liturgical sources. “The material consists of concrete “signs” of a transcendent reality (and) is a way of letting the child prolong, alone with the inner teacher, the meditation begun together with the adult.” — Sofia Cavalletti The children explore the materials at their own pace. This freedom allows the children’s understanding to develop and deepen.
  • Why do Children Spend Three Years in One Atrium?
    Each level of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd contains three years of material. Even though children may remain in the same classroom they are receiving new lessons each year. A benefit of remaining in the same classroom is that a child may revisit a previous lesson with new perspectives or questions. “The themes (presented to the youngest children) serve as a bud; they unfold as the children grow, according to their developmental needs.” — Catherine Maresca Some of our atria serve children in a two or three year age span. This gives everyone the opportunity to be the younger child who watches and learns from the older children and to be the older child who is a role model for the others.
  • Are Adults Allowed in the Atrium?
    Any parishoner is welcome to schedule a time when they can come and observe an atrium, come for presentations for themselves, or simply come to explore the space. In addition, there will be an “Open Atrium” one Sunday during the year when the children can bring their parents into the atrium and give them their favorite presentations or show them their favorite work. During the Sunday School Hour our attentions are focused on the children. Please reach out to Ana Martin to make an appointment. Make the journey. It’s worth the trip.
  • How can I Become More Involved?
    We are always looking for folks to assist and to become trained catechists. We need materials made. We have a list of items that can be purchased and gifted to the atria. There is reading if you’re interested. You can come for presentations by making an appointment with a catechist. Please make yourself known to us if you hear that quiet little voice calling you to the Catechesis in any way. It is our joy and pleasure to talk with you about your involvement in Catechesis.
  • What are some other sources of information about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?
    St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church is a member of the National Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, USA. For more information on Catechesis of the Good Shepherd please visit the National Association’s website:
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