The Good Shepherd Program
Why does the school offer the Good Shepherd program?
Dr. Montessori observed that young children naturally desire to draw close to God. Even from the earliest age, children eagerly seek religious experience in its deepest, most essential elements, without "childish" overtones.
The Montessori School at Holy Rosary offers the "Catechesis of the Good Shepherd" as a way to nurture this desire for God. Hundreds of Catholic and Protestant churches and schools in more than 35 countries around the world have been providing this program since its origins in 1954.
The Good Shepherd program is central to the identity and mission of the Montessori School at Holy Rosary.
How did the Good Shepherd program get started?
The program began in Italy and is based on Maria Montessori’s principles. It was developed by Hebrew Scripture scholar Dr. Sofia Cavalleti, author of The Religious Potential of the Child: Experiencing Scripture and Liturgy with Young Children and her Montessori collaborator, Gianna Gobbi, who worked personally with Dr. Montessori for many years.
After teaching scripture to numerous children, Dr. Cavalletti described the Good Shepherd program as "a way of being in the presence of God that is both unique to the child and a gift to the adult who stops long enough to notice."
What are the Good Shepherd lessons and materials – and how are they presented?
Each classroom has an area called an "atrium" with Good Shepherd materials. In the words of Gianna Gobbi, an atrium "creates the conditions for silence and reverence and helps the children focus on and listen to God."
The materials focus on…
- making the mystery of God and the life and teachings of Jesus concrete for the child
- using geography materials to establish Jesus as a real person in time and place (Israel)
- telling stories through Bible parables that unlock the Kingdom of God and spark the child’s sense of wonder
- helping the child understand a "sacramental" relationship with God through liturgy as it reveals visible signs of God’s grace
The atrium and the Good Shepherd lessons provide an opportunity for children to not only "know about God" – but to know God personally, giving them profound joy and satisfaction of a deep and vital need.
A trained Good Shepherd teacher is called a "catechist" or a guide in religious instruction. They direct the lessons and provide the tools for a child to find their own relationship with God. Most of our classroom teachers are trained catechists.
What do children do in the atrium?
Children gather in an "atrium," a room prepared for them, which contains simple yet beautiful materials that they use. You may be wondering how these materials help the religious life of children? If an adult hears a beautiful passage from the Bible, the adult might take a Bible, find the passage, and read it slowly again and again. He or she may think deeply about the words and perhaps speak to God in a thankful or hopeful prayer. But a little child, too young to read, needs another way.
In an atrium the child can ponder a 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. Older children who do read often copy parables from the Bible, lay in order written prayers from the rite of baptism, or label a long time line showing the history of the kingdom of God.
Do children attend Mass at Holy Rosary Church?
Parents may choose to have their child attend a monthly Children’s Liturgy at the Holy Rosary Church 12:15 pm Mass. Elementary students help plan the mass, write the prayers, act as greeters, readers and servers (acolytes) and prepare the artwork for the mass program.
Do all children at the school participate in the Good Shepherd program?
The Good Shepherd program is available to any family choosing to have their child receive lessons and use the Good Shepherd materials in the classroom atrium. Middle school students receive Good Shepherd lessons and also attend a weekly theology class with Holy Rosary pastor, Fr. Philip Racco.
While participation in the Good Shepherd program is not mandatory, all students will be exposed to the Good Shepherd program in some form, simply by its presence in the classroom and freedom to use the materials throughout the daily work cycle.
Throughout the year, several all-school events are celebrated by the entire community -- including Advent Sharing before Christmas, the Seder Meal during Passover and the Liturgy of the Light during the Easter season.