Maria Montessori’s vision for religious education.

The Montessori method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on more than a century of scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood in diverse cultures throughout the world.

“It is possible to see a clear analogy between the Shepherd in the Church and that of the prudent and generous educator in the Montessori method, who with tenderness, with love and with a wise evaluation of gifts, knows how to discover and bring to light the most hidden virtues and capacities of the child.” Saint Pope John XXIII

A Montessori education permits uninterrupted blocks of independent time when children may self-direct their own learning. It’s designed for children to develop their cognitive powers through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement. Montessori teachers meticulously observe and record each child’s progress while encouraging independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order.

The Catholic religious education for a Montessori environment, called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, was developed over a century ago by Sofia Cavaletti, a Hebrew Scripture scholar, and Gianna Gobbi, former assistant to Maria Montessori, a devout Catholic doctor.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Cardinal Bernardin Montessori

Instead of a religious education program focused on doctrines and rituals, ours is a beautiful, gentle and age-appropriate method through which the adult wonders alongside the child, and the child learns about liturgy, engages in prayer, and builds his or her personal relationship with Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

The Atrium

“The atrium is a place of prayer, in which work and study spontaneously become meditation, contemplation and prayer.”

“The atrium is a place where the child listens to the proclamation of the Word of God and celebrates it, and it is also a place for work.  Throughout this prepared environment “work easily becomes meditation and prayer.”  (Gobbi)

One unique characteristic of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the Atrium–a peaceful, sacred, and prayerful space for the children to come visit each week, like a spiritual retreat. Our Atrium is located directly behind St. Bonaventure Oratory. Classes have the opportunity to visit St. Bonaventure Oratory briefly during their Catechesis work cycle, which allows children to better make connections between their work in the Atrium and the church.

Each primary and elementary classroom has a work cycle in the Atrium once a week, where the children pray, make silence, engage with scripture and liturgy, sing songs, and express their love for God through artwork.

Children seek to answer the question, “Who am I? To whom do I belong?” Theirs is an orientation to God. Time in the Atrium is a time for them to soak in God’s love and enjoy their time with Him. Order, simplicity, beauty in environment, cultivation of silence, proclamation of the Word, communal prayer, and celebrations all nurture a spirit of prayer in the Atrium. Children have the opportunity to spend individual time at the prayer table, trace and create prayer cards, sing songs, and work with beautifully hand-crafted materials which help them come to know our Good Shepherd better and better. Week by week, each child receives more and more liturgical and scriptural presentations, each one inviting the child into wonder, awe, and a prayerful response.

Coming to know God better through our Work

In the Atrium, the work of the child is time spent with God growing in his or her personal relationship with our Good Shepherd.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd honors the philosophy of Maria Montessori through its child-centered approach, allowing the hand, heart, and mind to lead children to God.  All of God’s children are already in relationship with Him. They belong to God and God belongs to them. The Catechist strives to nurture this relationship through the prepared peaceful and prayerful environment and all of the beautiful works available to the child. Because the only teacher is Christ, after presenting the materials the Catechist takes a step back and gives space for the child and God to be drawn into a deeper relationship.

Meaningful work supports the dignity of the child and gives the child a sense of accomplishment and joy. All work in the Atrium is accessible and ordered, which allows children to care for and take ownership of the environment. Through their work, children personally engage in prayer, liturgy, the geography of Israel at the time of Jesus, baptism, parables, and the infancy narratives.

Families of all faiths are welcome!

We have a diverse family of students and strongly promote the values of inclusion, justice, faith, love and peace. We welcome children from homes of all faiths and cultures.

Our Academy is the only Catholic Montessori school in the Chicago Archdiocese, and one of only a few dozen across the country. As a ministry, we believe faith-based Montessori education should be open to all, so we keep tuition as low as possible, rely on the generosity of our families and donors, and extend scholarships to children in our community.

Our Academy is the only Catholic Montessori school in the Chicago Archdiocese, and one of only a few dozen across the country. Unlike other Catholic elementary schools in Chicago, we are a ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago and receive no parish subsidies.

We believe faith-based Montessori education should be open to all, so we keep tuition as low as possible, rely on the generosity of our families and donors, and extend scholarships to children in our community.

Resources for Parents

The National Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Website


Introduction to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 


The Good Shepherd and the Child: A Joyful Journey, Revised and Updated, by Sofia Cavalletti; Patricia Coulter; Gianna Gobbi; Silvana Q. Montanaro, M.D.; Rebekah Rojcewicz

The Religious Potential of the Child: Experiencing Scripture and Liturgy with Young Children, by Sofia Cavalletti

Listening to God with Children: The Montessori Method Applied to the Catechesis of Children, by Gianna Gobbi

Materials are available in each classroom and students may choose to use them as part of their self-directed learning.


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