In the early Christian Churches, the Atrium was the space in the Basilica or Cathedral where the catechumenates (those preparing to enter into full church membership) gathered for study and worship. Only when they had completed their education were the catechumenates able to fully participate in the Mass. As in the early Church, we use the term Atrium, a prepared space with materials children work with as a way of meditation upon the essentials of our faith found in Scriptures and in liturgy as they learn and grow in their love for Jesus and the Holy Mass.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
The children at St. John the Baptist Catholic Montessori school participate in The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd faith formation program where children can grow in their relationships with God. Designed by Maria Montessori, and further developed in the 1950′s by Sophia Cavaletti and Gianna Gobi, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a unique program founded in both Sacred Scripture and Liturgy and rich with the spiritual teachings and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. Level 1 is designed for children ages 3-6, and Level II and III, also referred to as The True Vine, are for elementary children ages 6-9 and 9-12.
The Catechesis proclaims the message of Jesus to children by presenting His parables in a Montessori learning environment. Preschool children are attracted to the Good Shepherd’s abiding love for His sheep. They develop a special love for Jesus, the Good Shepherd, even before they realize that they are the sheep. The children hear the Bible story in the words of the catechist, using actual scripture verses, and discuss and reflect on what they heard. Materials that accompany the teachings are available for the children to re-enact the story.
Level II builds on the covenantal love between God and His children, but adds the element of the merciful, forgiving love of Jesus and calls for a response from the children. Older children receive meditations to enhance their preparation for the sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation.
Level III focuses on the plan of God to join all people together. The child focuses on God’s generosity and the responsibilities that accompany His gifts. They are posed the question,"What is my place in the Kingdom of God?"