Together in the Atrium: An Intergenerational Adventure of Religious Education

Michelle M Smith, Fordham University


This study provides quantitative and qualitative evidence of the impact catechetical formation in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has on the spiritual lives and faith practices of current catechists. Specifically, the study explores the gift of adult faith formation and adult religious education that Catechesis of the Good Shepherd brings to the life of the Church. This study examines the work of Sofia Cavalletti, a biblical scholar, and Gianna Gobbi, a Montessori educator, who founded Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as a method of religious education for children. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd relies on two guiding points: a special environment for learning called the atrium and special tools for learning known as the materials and presentations. When individuals undergo catechetical formation, they are immersed into this environment and experience these tools in the same way the children do. Individuals who commit themselves to the elaborate formation process to become catechists experience deeply personal, spiritual, and educational growth, and a deeper connection and commitment to the church and their faith community.The research for this study has shown that catechetical formation forms, informs, and transforms catechists who, in their work with the children in the atrium, create intentional experiences of intergenerational faith formation. As the Church has placed a priority on intergenerational catechesis, with a renewed commitment to adult catechesis, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an opportunity, not just to the institutional Church, but for each individual member, across generations.The guiding question of this study is this: To what extent does catechetical formation in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd impact adult catechists in their faith lives, their religious education, and their involvement in the life of the Church? A comprehensive exploration of the history of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the Montessori Method of Education, the seven dimensions of religion, the unique characteristics of the adult learner, the tasks of adult catechesis as documented by the Church, and the philosophical understanding of intergenerational catechesis provide the foundation for this study, The analysis of data generated from an electronic survey of current catechists in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd offers their unique, honest, and personal experiences with catechetical formation. This study presents catechetical formation, through a lens of intergenerational parish religious education, as an opportunity to enliven and deepen the faith formation of all members of the Church, as they learn, grow, and encounter God together in the atrium.

Subject Area

Religious education

Recommended Citation

Smith, Michelle M, "Together in the Atrium: An Intergenerational Adventure of Religious Education" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28966964.