The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
The Atrium at St. Michael
Here at St. Michael’s parish, we have our own atrium attached to the 1st and 2nd grade Religious Education rooms. In the atrium, the children sit together at the beginning for a presentation on a parable, an examination of one of the Mass parts, or a look into the liturgical year. They then go to do their own “work,” or activity, and at the end come together at the prayer table before dismissal.
A session in the atrium is like going on retreat. The children spend time in silence, can ask questions when they come up, and slowly start to develop for themselves that sense of relationship with Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
During the school year, we offer Level 1 (3 – 6), Level 2 (6 – 9 ), and Level 3 (9 – 12).
Refunds – During the first 3 weeks of Atrium, we assess the child’s readiness for the Atrium. If we determine that the child is not ready (i.e., not potty-trained or not able to follow simple instructions and work independently), we will ask that the child wait till the following year. Tuition will be refunded if this determination is made by the Catechist. After the first 3 weeks, tuition is non-refundable.
Atrium Behavior – Following the discretion of the catechist or assistant, if a child hurts another person in the Atrium (by hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, scratching, etc.,) we will ask that the child skip the next week of Atrium. This is to cultivate an atmosphere of respect in the Atrium. If this happens a second time, the child will be asked to wait until the following year before returning.
Tours – Registered children receive a brief Atrium tour the first week of Atrium. (If you would like a tour, please contact the Religious Education Office at least 2 weeks before classes begin to schedule a tour.)
Illness and Absences – Please keep children who are sick at home until they recover. In the event of an illness or absence, we are unable to let children make up Atrium sessions on other days in order to keep consistency with each session.
We follow Fairfax County’s School Policy for inclement weather or emergency closures and delays. If Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) close, the Atrium is closed. If FCPS are delayed, the Atrium is open and on time.
What does the word “catechesis” mean?
The word “catechesis” is often defined as oral instruction given to catechumens (those preparing for baptism). It is from a Greek word, related to the word, “to teach,” and means “resounding” or “echoing down.” It refers to the passing on of the truths of our faith. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd takes its name from one of the earliest and most central presentations offered to children, the parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:3-5, 11-16). This catechesis is rooted in the Bible, the liturgy of the Catholic Church, and the educational principles of Maria Montessori.
How can the beautiful materials in the Atrium help the religious life of the child?
In an Atrium the child can ponder the biblical passage or a prayer from the liturgy by taking the material for that text and working with it – placing wood figures of sheep in a sheepfold of the Good Shepherd, setting sculpted apostles around a Last Supper table, or preparing a small altar with the furnishings used for the Eucharist.
Is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Catholic?
Yes. This catechesis came about through the work of two Roman Catholic laywomen in Rome: Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi. They were inspired by the educational principles of Maria Montessori, also a Catholic. The materials they prepared for children, beginning in 1954, were based on the Bible, the Roman Catholic liturgy and sacraments, Tradition, and church teachings.