Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Atrium?
- a sacred space set apart for children for growing in
their relationship with God
- an area specially designed and prepared for nurturing young children in the Christian faith
- rooms designed to optimize religious
education of children and help them participate in the life of the
- the atrium is a place of community and worship rather than a classroom for academic study
Atriums of the Good Shepherd vary around the world from outdoor spaces under the spreading
branches of a mango tree,
to classrooms in schools or partitioned-off
areas of church halls or meeting rooms. About 400 square feet of space of dedicated
space is optimal for an
atrium, but both shared and smaller spaces work fine given a little
bit of organization, imagination and effort.
How does the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd work?
Groups of 8-12 children gather each week in the atrium
- children engage in ‘guided play’(work) and listen to and wonder about scripture stories from the bible
- children learn new skills
and practice through use of sensorial rich materials
- children pray, sing and enjoy being with one another
- activities in an atrium are based on Montessori principles
Most atriums offer 1-1/2 to 2 hour sessions each week; some, due to time or space constraints, offer shorter
Many atriums offer daytime sessions
for young children and afterschool and evening sessions for older children.
Some atriums offer sessions on Saturdays or Sundays.
What do the children learn about?
Level I (age 3-6)
The young child has 2 essential spiritual questions:
- Who is God / Jesus?
Who am I in relationship to God / Jesus?
In the Atrium the children discover ‘God is love’ ‘Jesus
is Risen’ and ‘We are His sheep’, through meditating
on selected bible stories
such as the birth of Jesus and the account
of the Last Supper and the prayers of the church (i.e. the Mass or
In the stories of Jesus (parables) they encounter
the mystery of God while in the Parable of the Good Shepherd the children
into the mystery of our covenant relationship with God. The
children work with child-friendly figures in dioramas and miniature
used in the church (i.e. baptismal font) to help them wonder
and ponder on answers to their questions. They are also given opportunities
to celebrate the seasons of the church; Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and the Liturgy of Light and Pentecost in the atrium.
Level II (age 6-9)
As children move into level II their questions centre more on the
spiritual ‘what’ than ‘who’:
What is God’s plan?
What is my role in God’s plan?
In response, we study God’s Plan of Salvation as shown to us
in the bible and the gifts that we have received from God through
The children are developing their moral intelligence, so we
listen and reflect together on the stories Jesus told of mercy and
well as His suggestions such as “Do to others what
you would have them do to you”. The children age 6-9 are trying
to discover their role
in God’s plan and their own place in
the community of believers -the church - so they are given the tools
to enable them to access the
Word of God (Bible) and the prayers of
the church in the rites of Eucharist, Baptism and Reconciliation. Many atriums offer the children
a special retreat in preparation for celebrating 1st Reconciliation
Level III (ages 9-12)
These children too want to know more about God’s Plan of Salvation
but their perspective has widened so they ask:
What is God calling me to do as His co-worker in the Kingdom?
What gifts have I been given that I should use in this work?
To help the children find answers to these questions timelines
of God’s Plan of Salvation are studied, along with the great
figures and events
in the Bible scriptures: Creation, The Flood,
Abraham, Moses, the prophets; as well as the miracles in the New Testament.
To further explore
the gifts that we are given to help us on our spiritual
journey, we study together the rites of Eucharist, Baptism, Reconciliation
We reflect with the children on the teachings of Jesus to help
us understand the meaning of life and our call to live as co-workers
in the Kingdom.
How do I enroll my child in this ministry?
Please contact your local Atrium
to enroll your child.
If there is no atrium near you consider starting an atrium in your
parish. For more information email