Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The Atrium at St. Michael

In the atrium, the children come together at the beginning of each session.  They are given either a presentation on a parable, on a part of the Mass, or a part of the liturgical year.  They then go individually to do their own “work,” or activity.  At the end, the children come together to pray before they are dismissed.

A session in the atrium is like going on retreat.  The children spend time working in silence, they ask questions as they come up, and they slowly start to develop a relationship and understanding of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Registration for the 2024-2025 Academic year is now open. St. Michael’s Atrium is offering Levels 1, 2, and 3.

Atrium Details

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.

Inclement Weather – 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.

Find the full Atrium policies in our CGS Handbook.


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.