“Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.”
— Psalm 111:1-3
In 1954 in Italy, the Scripture scholar Sofia Cavalletti began to read the Bible first with one boy, then with a small group of children. Through her friendship with Adele Costa Gnocchi, Sofia met the Montessori educator Gianna Gobbi, and together they began working with children and experimenting with materials to help those children come in contact with our Good Shepherd as we meet him in the Bible and the liturgy. The first atrium was in Sofia’s home on Via Degli Orsini in Rome. The seeds of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd were sown.
In 1975, the first atrium in the United States began in St. Giles Community in Oak Park, Illinois, by Lillian Lewis, who had studied in Rome with Sofia and Gianna. That same year, Sofia Cavalletti was invited by A. M. Joosten to St. Paul, Minnesota, and an atrium was opened there by Carol Dittberner. Sofia returned to the United States each summer between 1982 and 1985. The forming of a national association for the United States began in the summers of 1983 and 1984 when those involved with a retreat Sofia was offering realized there was a deep friendship growing among them that they wanted to nurture, despite coming from all over North America. They already shared a vision: a world where the religious life of the child was honored. It was not surprising that the first stated aim of the association was: “To involve adults and children in a religious experience in which the religious values of the child are predominant, keeping in mind that the contemplative nature of the child indicates to the adult a certain way of drawing near to God.” In 1984, a five-member board was elected, a newsletter was prepared, and discussions were held to choose a name: the United States Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
As we come to the 70th Anniversary of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the 40th Anniversary of The United States Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd we ask: In light of the importance of these years, how can we best praise God for the gift of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd? How can we remember, celebrate, and hope for the future together?
The Bible teaches us how to live these anniversaries and reminds us how to live in the mystery of time. As Sofia wrote, “we who live here and now, between memory and hope, are being taught about living in the precariousness of the present moment. The history that has already been realized consolidates and stabilizes our precarious present by means of the inheritance of the past.” Sofia wrote that the mingling of memory and hope which “sustains our life and energizes it with an incomparable inheritance” also serves as “the secure foundation from which to launch the flight toward the ‘new heavens and the new earth.’”
As we gather in person and online we seek to give praise, to remember, celebrate, and hope for the future in memory and hope. In our three days we will remember our legacy, celebrate our present work and hope for our future as we celebrate this “friendship of catechists” our association is founded on.
Revisit our Celebration from 2014
Highlights from our celebration of the 60th Anniversary of CGS and the 30th Anniversary of CGSUSA
The Songs and Art Expressions of the Children of the World