Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

"Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (or CGS) is a common religious experience involving children and adults in which the religious values of childhood, primarily those values of contemplation and enjoyment of God, are predominant.  This experience is shared in a place particularly prepared for the religious life of Children called the Atrium."
The United States Association of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd


Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is back!  

CGS will be offered weekly at several different times.   All children enrolled are expected to attend weekly.  If weekly attendance will not suit your family's schedule, please see Andrew for alternative programs.  Class sizes are limited. 
Please see Andrew at the Church office to register.

  • Wednesday Nights 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM  (Registration full)
    • Level I, II & III 
    • During Generations of Faith 
  • Sunday Mornings 9:15 AM - 11:00 AM   
    • Level II & III
    • Possibly Level I depending on availability of catechists and aides  
  • Friday Mornings  9:00 AM - 10:45 AM 
    • Level I 
    • During St. Joseph Pre-School (Pre-school Children will have first priority for registration)

Level I (age 3-6 / PreK-K)

The 3-6-year-old child is particularly capable of receiving and enjoying the most essential elements of our faith—the announcement of God’s love especially experienced through Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who died and is risen.  Materials on the life of Jesus Christ and his teachings help to make the mystery of God concrete for the child. The heart of the catechesis for children under six revolves around the Parable of the Good Shepherd. Jesus announces that he is the Good Shepherd who calls each one by name. The sheep listen to the voice of the Shepherd and follow him.

The 3-6 year old child enters the mystery of the Eucharist by first learning the names of the articles used on the altar and then through the most important gestures including the preparation of the chalice, the epiclesis and offering, and the sign of peace. Through the experience of seeing these gestures, presented one by one, the Mass 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.  All summaries are courtesy of CGS USA.  For more information visit The CGS Approach | CGSUSA

Level II (age 6-9 / Grade 1-3) 

The elementary age child is captured by the image of the True Vine. “I am the vine, you are the branches, whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” The proclamation responds to the deep need of these children to better know his or her relationship with God, family, friends, and the larger community.  Moral parables offer a model for comparing their behavior with that of the Pharisee, the Tax Collector, or the Good Samaritan.  The elementary children see the parts of the Mass—the Liturgy of the Word, the Preparation of the Gifts, the Eucharistic Prayer, and the Communion—as one unified prayer made of many smaller prayers. Children prepare for the celebration of First Communion (or Solemn Communion) through a series of communion meditations focusing on the relationship with Jesus. Preparation of personal missals filled with illustrations and prayers is also part of this preparation which helps to deepen their love and understanding of the Eucharist.

Level III (age 9-12 / Grade 4-6) 

The history of salvation focusing on the plan of God as a plan of communion, a plan which links all people together through God’s love delight the older child. The emphasis is on our response to this unfolding generosity of God and recognition of the responsibilities that come with receiving God’s great gifts and seeing oneself as a collaborator with God. “What is the kingdom of God and my place in it?” is a cosmic query which lays the foundations for a life commitment in relationship with God.  Materials on the Prophets of the Old Testament, the Gifts of God, the Miracles of Jesus, and expanded presentations on Liturgy and Scripture can also be found in the Level III Atrium.


Important, please note:  

  • CGS, a Montessori-based Atrium, is a radically different mode of learning.  Therefore, all children must receive an orientation prior to participating in CGS.  This orientation lays the foundation for the child to be able to best receive the presentations of CGS, and the parents to be able to best respond to the child.
  • All children must be registered prior to entering the Atrium.    

Registration Form


The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the result of a long period of careful observation of children by Sofia Cavalletti and her Montessori collaborator, Gianna Gobbi, in Rome.  To speak about the history of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is to speak about two women living in Rome, Italy who became friends and collaborators and who devoted their life's work to children.  Sofia was a Catholic laywoman and theologian who received a doctorate in Hebrew and Comparative Semitic Languages from La Sapienza University in Rome and who was biblical scholar.  The way CGS began was quite by accident, without warning or planning, the way God so often comes into our lives.  Sofia liked to say, "We started without knowing we started."

CGS Catechist Team:

  • Doug Dexheimer
  • Jolene Fasse
  • Kristin George
  • Mary Gillick
  • Sharon Henry
  • Janet Higbee
  • Mickey Hoff
  • Amy Julian
  • Julia O'Neil King

Virtual Atrium Sessions

During 2020, in an effort to reach out to our children, the Catechists recorded some of the presentations which we would have presented to the children during Lent, Holy Week and Easter.  Your patience as we continue to build this library is greatly appreciated!  Some tips to using the video library are below.  

  • Which sessions should we watch?  
    • Parents and older siblings are welcome and encouraged to watch any of the sessions.  Even adults are often moved by what they receive when watching one of these presentations.  We would love your feedback!  
    • Children who are currently enrolled in CGS are encouraged to watch the sessions which are labeled for their grade.  They are also encouraged to watch any of the sessions for the younger Levels as a review.  
      • Please note: We do not recommend that the children watch video presentations for the older grades.  A big part of the experience of learning in the atrium is the actual "receiving" of the presentation.  If a child has already witnessed the presentation, they are not as open to receiving it when presented at the appropriate time.  
    • Children who are not currently enrolled in CGS area also welcome to watch the age appropriate presentations.  We would encourage watching the younger presentations first.  
  • How should we watch the videos?
    • Choose a time a time when you can be uninterrupted for 30-45 minutes, depending on the length of the video.
    • Set a prayerful and peaceful backdrop.  For instance, have a candle ready to light, have a bible ready, snuggle up together on the couch.
    • Remind your child that this is an opportunity to encounter Christ, the very same Jesus who will celebrate the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, who will lay down his life on Friday, and who will rise again to new life on Easter Sunday.
    • Allow yourself to enter into the presentation with your child.  Encourage your child to share their reactions with you.  We are constantly blessed by how the Holy Spirit works through the children during these presentations!  
  • My child misses the interaction they experience while in class . . .
    • So do we!  We will be sending out Facebook invitations to a Spearfish St. Joseph CGS Group.  This is a closed invitation only group, which means that it is very private, to protect our children.  We would love to have you share your child's reaction (or your own reaction) to any of the presentations.  Please let me know if you do not receive an invitation.  

Level I Videos  Pre K & Kindergarten

  • Holy Thursday--Last Supper
  • Easter--Resurrection

Level II Videos  1st / 2nd       
Level II/III Videos    3rd / 4th       
Level III Videos  5th / 6th 

  • Holy Week--City of Jerusalem, Jesus' Entry into Jerusalem
  • Holy Thursday--Origin of the Eucharist, Agony in the Garden
  • Good Friday--Crucifixion
  • Easter--Empty Tomb


Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Holy Week & Easter Parent Pages 

The United States Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has made a beautiful resource available to parents.  The Parent Page includes a beautiful Celebration of the Liturgy of the Light that you can do at home with your children on Easter Vigil night, or Easter Sunday.