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Catechesis of the Good Shepherd & Atrium

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach to the religious formation of children, 3-12 years of age. It is based upon the belief that young children can and do experience God. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd originated in 1954 with the founding of the children’s centre or “atrium” in Rome, Italy. Inspired by Montessori principles of education, it now extends to over 32 countries and can be found in homes, parishes and school settings.The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd uses concrete materials to help the young child fall more deeply in love with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who is the Risen Christ.

Upper elementary aged children focus on scripture study and discussion as they continue their faith formation.

+ Atrium

Catechesis for children occurs on the second and third floors of Gray Hall. The atrium hour runs from 9:50 Am to 10:50 AM. 

Through the proclamation of the Gospel, exploration of parables, and celebrations of liturgical events, the spiritual life of the child is carefully nurtured.  All materials in the atrium lead to prayer.  Singing, prayer, and silence, which are integral to the atrium, arise naturally initiated by child or adult.

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is unique in that it involves adults and children in a common religious experience in which the religious values of childhood are predominant.  The adult who works with the child is called the catechist, meaning one who holds out the faith, and the specially prepared environment is called the atrium, a place which links the church and the outside world.

Find more information about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at or contact Mary Nell Prichard, Director of Children’s Ministries.


St. James’

– Atrium –

catechesis for toddlers

Level I

St. James’

– Atrium –

Level I: Ages Three through Five



In level I of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, three to five year old children receive and enjoy the most essential elements of our faith – the announcements of God’s love in the person of the Good Shepherd, who died and is risen.

Materials on the life of Christ and his teachings help make the mystery of God concrete for the child. The geography materials establish Jesus as a real person in time and space. Infancy narratives announce the birth of Jesus. Parables about the kingdom of God encourage joy, wonder and appreciation. How beautiful is the kingdom of God! How small it begins! How slowly it grows!

The major themes for this age group are Gift, Light, and Unconditional Love. These themes find expression in scripture and liturgy. Through the arranging of the chalice, paten, fair linen, candles, and crucifix, the child becomes familiar with the articles of the Eucharist. The child enters the mystery of the Eucharist through the most important gestures including preparation of the chalice, the epiclesis and offering, and the gesture of peace. From these gestures, the Eucharist emerges as the Sacrament of the Gift.

The child becomes acquainted with the historical character of the liturgy through the events of the Last Supper, Christ’s death, and His resurrection.

The liturgical colors and calendar situate the child in the church year and express the Paschal mystery – Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

A prayer corner reflects the liturgical cycle with appropriate colors, prayers, songs, banners and readings.

Level II

St. James’

– Atrium –

Level II: First to Third Grades


The elementary aged child is captured by the image of the True Vine from the gospel of John.  “I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me bears fruit.”  The proclamation responds to the older child’s deep need to know better their relationships with God, family, friends, and the larger community.

The child at this age seeks guidelines for how to live in God’s kingdom. The moral parables such as The Good Samaritan, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector, The Ten Bridesmaids offer a model for right action.  The Found Sheep, The Found Coin and the Prodigal Son are examined and provide evidence of God’s unfailing love, forgiveness and acceptance.

Time-lines are used to depict the unity and vastness of God’s Kingdom and to help the child discover his or her place in Salvation History. The moments of creation, redemption, and parousia are introduced and deepened as the children reflect on God’s plan to bring all of creation to God’s Self.

Another time-line focuses on the many gifts we receive from God – rocks, minerals, flowers, fruit, friends, family – culminating in God’s gift of His own divine life, in the person of Jesus, a gift which will pervade the whole universe at the completion of history.

Level III

St. James’

– Atrium –

Level III: Fourth & Fifth Grades


A major theme throughout the three levels of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is our covenant relationship with God.  God loves us first.  We respond.

The level III atrium emphasizes morality, responsibility, and history through study and comparison of the Old and New Testaments.

Fourth and fifth grade children explore the history of God’s redeeming presence throughout time (Salvation history), through careful reading and study of the Old Testament stories of creation, the fall, Abraham, Moses, Exodus, and the prophets.

A work called The Plan of God introduces the children to the idea of collaborating with God and explores the concept that everyone has a role in God’s kingdom.  The Old Testament stories provide many examples of people who have helped further God’s kingdom.

Echoing throughout the presentations is the proclamation that “from the beginning of time a plan has existed in the mind of God to bring all people and all of creation to God’s self.”  Now, in late childhood, the upper elementary child ponders his response to God, and begins to ask the questions, “What is my place in the kingdom of God?” and “Do my actions further or hinder the spread of God’s kingdom?”

Parents who would like to receive the Level III presentations may contact Mary Nell Prichard.



Jesus & Me

A once a month social and service offering for children in 1st – 5th grades includes supper.

During the school year, Sunday afternoon J.A.M. (Jesus And Me) sessions from 4 – 5:30 pm are offered for our first through 5th graders once each month and feature games, community building, service projects and a light supper. Parent volunteers are needed and find this to be a fun opportunity to get to know other parish families. Contact Mary Nell Prichard.

Email to sign up and/or volunteer.
A monthly email will be sent with detailed info.