As you begin the journey FAQs
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. Though most of the children we serve are baptized in infancy and are not actually catechumens, their catechesis has been delayed until the earliest ages at which they can participate in it.
Catechesis is pronounced ka-tə-kē-səs.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 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, since 1954, were based on the Bible, the Roman Catholic liturgy and sacraments, Tradition, and Church teachings. In 1985, a Level I course welcomed participants from both Catholic and several other Christian traditions. Since that time, the ecumenical character of the roster for each course has continued. All presentations are offered as given to us by Sofia and Gianna (Catholic) and participants are welcome to adapt them to their own traditions with the encouragement of the national association and help from CGS formation leaders who share their traditions.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is not a published curriculum. It is handed on through a series of formation courses for adults that include discussion of biblical, liturgical, and salvation history themes; a presentation of each material as it is given to children; prayer and celebration in the style of the atrium; and much more. Each course is approximately 90 hours.
Complete, finished atrium materials are not for sale. We do have some materials available in our on line store and in Shepherd’s Closet. A few unfinished materials are available from various sources. See “Why We Make Our Own Materials” (Document Library) and the “Source List” given out at courses (Members Document Library). Once you are taking a formation course, we encourage you to purchase a subscription to the Materials Manuals, which are available to CGSUSA members on this website. You can find more information here.
In CGS, every child is welcomed into his or her age-appropriate atrium. What a child may have missed in a previous atrium level seems to be “picked up” simply by their living the life of the atrium.
Many parents have taken the formation courses for just this reason. Groups of home schooling parents sometimes collaborate in setting up an atrium in their area. While waiting to attend a course, parents often begin to read the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd publications that are particularly helpful in working with children at home:
- Listening to God with Children; The Good Shepherd and the Child, A Joyful Journey by Cavalletti, Coulter, Gobbi, and Montanaro;
- A Is for Altar, B Is for Bible by Judith Lang Main, and a set of five little books from Colombia, directed to parents, entitled God and the Child Collection.
The Level I course is the foundational course for anyone interested in offering Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to children ages 3 to 6, 6 to 9, or 9 to 12. The Level I course presents the seminal themes that continue through all three levels. It focuses on the writing of the “album page,” which prepares the catechist to compile their albums for all three levels. It is an orientation to the atrium and the life of the atrium. The work of the 6- to 12-year-old child is often based on what the young child receives in this first atrium level. For example, five of the infancy narratives are presented in the Level I course. In Level II, we present how to synthesize those narratives.
The cost of a course varies from place to place around the country. In the course list on this website (Courses for Adults), each particular course has a contact person. You can receive information or a course brochure by calling or emailing that person. Some courses are subsidized by a parish or diocese, so the cost can range from $300-$1000 for a complete course.
Level I Books:
- The Religious Potential of the Child by Sofia Cavalletti,
- Listening to God with Children by Gianna Gobbi
- The Good Shepherd and the Child by Sofia Cavalletti et al, and
- CGS in a Parish Setting by Tina Lillig comprise a solid overview of this work.
Level II Books:
- The Religious Potential of the Child 6 to 12 Years Old by Sofia Cavalletti
- The History of the Kingdom of God, Part 2: Liturgy and the Building of the Kingdom, also by Cavalletti, are important to understanding the work as it is given to the six to nine-year-old child.
- The History of the Kingdom of God, Part 1: From Creation to Parousia by Cavalletti is important to the work for the 9-12 year-old child. Other books, articles, and readings will be suggested for each course.
Yes, but do consider attending a Level I course before hosting one, especially if you are beginning Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in your parish and you do not have an atrium established. It is so beneficial to see an existing atrium with all materials as part of a course experience. This gives the best guidance for catechists to know how to prepare the environment for the children and for adults in a course. Another option if you are interested in hosting a course is to see if an atrium exists near your parish and discuss the possibility of sharing hosting duties for a course at the other parish. We offer a packet for those interested in hosting a formation course, which will give you guidelines for your planning. You can download a Hosting Packet from this website.
Our association regularly receives updates on material changes from the International Council. These clarifications will now be noted in the online Materials Manuals. If you have signed up for broadcast emails, you will receive an email letting you know of material changes as they are made.
Our association has a process in place to assist those who feel called to lead CGS formation courses. A catechist who begins this process must be an association member. The catechist also must have completed all three levels of formation courses (or is close to completing Level III), must have written a personal album at the level at which she/he wants to lead courses, must demonstrate at least three-years of experience in the atrium with children at that level, and has an experienced formation leader as a mentor. At this point, the catechist may want to contact the Director of Formation to request a Formation Leader Application.
To assist the involvement of adults and children in a common religious experience in which the religious values of childhood predominate. Our mission is to support catechists, parents and others in the church and beyond, as they grow in their understanding of the religious potential of children.
Whether you are a catechist, a parent, or a friend of CGS, you will join a community dedicated to the spiritual life of the child. We are a membership-based association, the fees that we receive help us to provide and sustain the mission of through publications, on-going formation courses, the best possible resources on our website, including answers to question on how to serve the child, speak to their parents, and promote regional support and unity. The CGSUSA website, especially the “For Our Members” resources, are full of valuable information for the catechist, parish catechetical leader, pastor and all those who seek to follow the child.
Even if a staff member at your church or school is a member of The United States Association, we encourage you to join as well. The support of both Organization and Individual members allows the United States Association to continue to offer excellent service and resources, as well as develop new opportunities and publications that will benefit your work with the child.
If you serve as a staff member for your church community, Individual Membership for your catechist(s) is a wonderful gift of support for their role in serving the child in the atrium.
Each Individual Member receives all of the benefits of membership and each Organization Membership is invited to designate one individual to receive the benefits of such membership.
Remember only Individual Members may have access to the Online Materials Manual and take part in voting (elections, by-laws, etc.) at the Annual Meeting. One individual or representative from an Organization may vote. This is an option for those Organizations who want to show support for the work of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and it is an opportunity to gain visibility by being listed in our membership directory or online in our Atrium Locator section.
An Individual Member is any/all individual persons (catechist, formation leader, aide, director/coordinator, clergy/religious, passionate parent/grandparent).
Organization Members are any entity (church/parish, school, regional group, diocese, etc.) that either offers CGS and/or supports those who serve the children as catechists, aides, or formation leaders).
It is important to clarify that an Organization Membership is not a “group” membership. Historically, groups of catechists have maintained membership through an organization (typically a church or school) and have relied on a primary contact for access to CGSUSA resources, especially the online Materials Manual.
Because the online Materials Manual is a resource for those formed catechists – individuals who have participated in a CGSUSA catechist formation course, and that the materials manual is an extension of their album page – this feature is simply for Individual Membership. An Organization Membership will continue to be an avenue for those churches, schools and regions to show their support of CGSUSA.
You may join The United States Association by clicking on “Become a Member” from the pull down menu at www.cgsusa.org. It is easy to join on our website using the fillable form! A printable form is also available for those who would rather not pay online with a credit card.
You do not need to wait until you have completed your formation course to join the National Association. There are many great resources available in the ‘For Our Members’ section of our website that will serve you while you continue your formation as a catechist.
As a benefit of membership, a small thank you gift is sent to all new and renewing members, to enhance your work with the children. Most years we are delighted to offer a small packet of mustard seeds.
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If we haven’t answered your question on this FAQ page, you are welcome to contact us directly and a member of our team will respond with 72 hours.
If you are interested in obtaining more information and resources or in simply supporting this work, consider joining CGSUSA.