Home»Features»A Gentle Place to Learn

A Gentle Place to Learn

Pinterest WhatsApp

by Kary Ellen Berger

Feels like heaven.” “A gentle place.” “It feels like you are right there with God.” That is how children at The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori School (GSCM) in Madisonville describe what they feel while in their school’s Atrium.

Founded in 1998 by Dan Teller, GSCM is the only Pre-K through eighth grade school in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati that offers a Montessori education with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Leading the school as its first principal, Teller wanted to connect both a Catholic school and Montessori education to build a strong spiritual formation.

“Having Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as an integral part of a wider Montessori environment complements and completes the holistic approach to education that is foundational in the Montessori philosophy,” said Anne Marie Vega, GSCM’s current principal. “The spiritual needs of the child are approached and met in the same way that the child’s intellectual, emotional, social and physical needs are met. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd’s themes and the emphasis on contemplation and enjoyment of God can be integrated into the Montessori classroom and all other aspects of the school’s atmosphere.”

Children learn and reflect on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the Atrium, whose creation connects back to Maria Montessori. “Montessori envisioned a specialized environment for the religious formation of the child and even started one such experiment in Barcelona, Spain, in the early 1900s,” said Vega. “She called her environment an ‘atrium’ and developed some materials for learning and integrating the faith. However, it was Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi who began working with children in 1954 and developed the approach as we know it today.”

“In the Atrium, children fall in love with the Good Shepherd, the One who calls us by name and leads us into deeper contemplation and enjoyment of God and His kingdom,” said Cindy Wurzelbacher, Atrium catechist and liturgy coordinator at GSCM. “It is my hope that the peace and joy experienced through pondering scripture and liturgy continues the journey for a life-long dynamic relationship with the Lord.”

“The Atrium has genuinely been a place for my own spiritual growth in that time,” said Catherine Lopez, a GSCM volunteer. “I have come to love Christ more deeply, understand scripture and the Mass in new ways, and I constantly learn from the wisdom of the children.”

In the Atrium, the History of the Kingdom of God works parallels, enhances, and looks to the root of all the other subjects: God,” said Wurzelbacher

“One thing that makes the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd unique is that, in the style of Montessori, the curriculum is determined by the child,” said Vega. “Sophia and Gianna observed what images and themes resonated most with the child at various stages and worked to set in front of the child those topics which met their spiritual needs and encouraged contemplation and reflection.”

Reflecting on how children spend their time in the Atrium, Lopez said, “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd approaches these little children as people who are capable of having their own relationship with God. As a catechist, our job is to make space for them to encounter God on their own.”

Wurzelbacher added, “Providing an environment for a child to, ‘Help me come closer to God by myself,’ begins the journey of formation of a personal relationship with Christ that will be life-long. Isn’t this what we want for our children?”

You can learn more about The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori’s Atrium by visiting their website: gscmontessori.org

This article appeared in the January 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

Previous post


Next post

Filming of ‘The Passion of the Christ’ sequel set to begin this spring