The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) began in the dynamic environment of 1950’s Rome, Italy, as one woman accepted the invitation to prepare some children for their participation in the Eucharist. Dr. Sofia Cavalletti, a well-known Biblical scholar, began this work and was soon connected with Gianna Gobbi, a Montessori protégé. Using the Montessori developmental model as a guide, they undertook an investigation into the spiritual development of children, and sought to help facilitate that growth through a meticulously prepared environment centered on Christ, based on the Bible, and oriented to the Liturgy. Over the last 50+ years, this work has unfolded around the world, under the auspices of many denominations, and across a spectrum of cultural and socio-economic divides, to reveal what appears to be the essence of childhood spirituality.
A trained scientist and medical doctor, Montessori’s pioneering experiments in education took place over 100 years ago, yet continue to actively influence pedagogy in the public and private sectors today. Two of the most distinctive elements of her work are hallmarks of the CGS: a) a specifically prepared educational environment that draws out a personal response in the child and b) an exacting skill of observation employed by the adult. These two tools allowed her original students to experience an unprecedented level of academic success. By applying her method to religious education, Cavalletti and Gobbi opened a door to understanding the spiritual nature of the child, enabling adults to nurture the child’s spiritual formation and present information most effectively.
CGS came to the United States in the 1970’s, as many who had traveled to Rome had seen it and wanted to implement it here. Cavalletti herself was invited to come and lead these courses for adults. Since that time, the number churches using CGS in the United States has grown exponentially, as parents, clergy, and educators seek to meet the vital needs of children in the process of their spiritual formation. We are excited about its growing popularity in the Orthodox Church and are working closely with Fr. Andre and several Orthodox Catechists who have utilized this program for several years to adapt it to our faith and bring its richness to our children.