Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The La Crosse area has two running atriums, St. Pat’s of Onalaska with a Level I, II, and III and Mary, Mother of the Church in La Crosse with a Level I. Cotter Schools in Winona, MN, also has a Level I and II.

St. Patrick's, Onalaska

CGS Level I, Level II, and Level III

We are excited to offer Level I (ages 3-5) and Level II (6-9) again for the 2023 to 2024 school year at St. Patrick's in Onalaska! We will also be offering a Level III (9-12) with a max of five children for the first year. Please read Registration Instructions before registering. Children of all levels can be registered on the same form. Thank you!

Atrium sessions full? Add your child to the St. Pat's CGS waitlist

What is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?

 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a hands-on method of faith formation based on the Montessori method of learning. Unlike book-based curriculums that use a workbook model with minimal teacher training, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd utilizes a dedicated prepared space for children called the “atrium” and extensively trained catechists.  The atrium is filled with child-sized furnishings and manipulative models of people, places, and objects found in Scripture and the liturgy.

These materials are introduced to the children throughout the year. Each week, the children choose materials to continue their meditation about particular Scripture texts or signs from the liturgy. Because children learn by using their hands, working with materials allows them to enter more deeply into meditation, nurturing their relationship with God.

CGS in the Home

A link to for preparing the home environment.

The Better Part

A weekly podcast (one each for ages 3-6, 6-9, 9-12) with age appropriate CGS-style reflections on the Gospel reading each week. Touches on many themes in the atrium.

The Good Shepherd and the Child

This is a podcast touching on the themes and background of CGS, allowing one to understand the child and the aims in the atrium.

From the Atrium

Creation, Redemption, and Parousia

In Level II of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the children have been learning about the moments of the history of the Kingdom of God. The first moment we talk about is Creation, where we describe all the beautiful gifts...

Read More


The Montessori "hands on" approach uses specially prepared materials based on parables, Scripture, and the Mass, which allows children to stay engaged and present in their learning.

Allows for deeper meditation

Because children are engaged for a longer period of time, Scripture reaches them in a new way as they absorb more of it from the sensorily rich materials.

Fosters a Natural connection to God

The COTGS approach leaves room for silence and wonder, where the Holy Spirit can work individually in the child's soul and create a unique relationship between God and child.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

Getting started

In order to bring more atriums to the Coulee Region, we need help from the local Catholic community!  Find out more about beginning an atrium at the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd website.

Parish Support

Parish support from a pastor or parish council increases the chance of having a successful atrium.  Most atriums are under the oversight of the Director of Religious Education at a parish or a principal at a Catholic school. 


Each atrium needs at least one catechist, but would benefit greatly from two or more.  Take a look at the formation schedule to find a course. We are also hoping to host a course in the Coulee Region! Find more about that here.


The Level I atrium includes about 50 different presentations for 3-6 year olds, with several dedicated areas for materials relating to prayer, life of the Church, Good Shepherd, biblical geography, parables, Messianic prophecies, & more!


Ideally, the location is a room dedicated solely to the use of an atrium, which is a sacred space where the child is initiated into the life of the Church. It is also possible to use a shared room, but may require more work for assembly.

When bringing Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to an area, it is typical to start with Part I of Level I, which is aimed at preschool. More parts and levels are added as experience is gained, and the Catechist receives further formation for the other levels.

Want to show your support?
Help us prepare our materials!

Check out our progress and find other ways you can help!

We need your help!

In special need of those talented in woodworking, scroll saw, painting, crafts, and more.

Ways To Help

  • Talk to Your Parish

    By mentioning Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to your parish leaders, it will bring attention to the growing interest in CGS, and can help get your pastor or parish council on board.

  • Become a Catechist

    There is a need for more catechists in our area. It is recommended to have one catechist per 8-10 children, as well as an aide. Even if you are not able to assist as a catechist right now, it is helpful for parents to experience the formation.

  • Help Prepare Materials

    Offer your assistance to a trained catechist who may be working on creating materials for an atrium. A lot of time and care is spent on preparing these materials, and help may be appreciated!

  • Spread the Word

    Let others know about the work being done to bring more atriums to the Coulee Region!

Frequently asked questions

The Child in the Church by Maria Montessori serves as the foundation for CGS  methods. It has been examined by an official censor of the Roman Catholic Church and received the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur, meaning there is nothing in it that goes against Catholic teaching.

Maria Montessori saw religious formation as essential to the fullness of the child’s development, but felt unworthy to take it on, and hoped an order would continue the work. Instead, two other Italian women, Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi picked up this task and began what is now known as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Cavalletti was a scholar who studied Hebrew and contributed to several editions of the Bible, and whose work has influenced many theologians, including Scott Hahn. Her theological study was foundational for this method, while Gianna Gobbi, who was Montessori certified under Maria, contributed much of the Montessori methodology.

Catholic theology is the basis for this method. It was developed by and for Catholics. The catechists in the Coulee Region are firmly committed to Catholic teaching. 

Read more here.

There are three levels to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, each involving in depth training of 90 hours, usually divided into two parts of about 45 hours. 

Read more about training here.

An atrium is typically a dedicated space for homing the materials for the catechesis. There is approximately one session per week for the school year.

It is recommended to have one catechist per 8-10 children, ideally with an aide. If there are more than 10 children, there would likely be two sessions in order for a smaller “class” size.

We encourage you to visit the CGS/USA website!

There is much to look at, including resources, materials, and help for incorporating elements of CGS in your home.

what people are saying...

"CGS had a PROFOUND impact on our entire family. It deepened our family’s faith in so many beautiful ways. After 39 years as a cradle Catholic, it all seemed to “click.” My faith finally felt REAL and what was even more beautiful was that I was watching my daughters experience this at the same time. There is truly nothing like CGS and I think it has the power to renew the church. I had been going through the motions with religious ed for years. Time in the atrium is a deeply spiritual experience, felt by both adult and child. This is how our faith is meant to be shared."
Jamie L.
Catechist and Mother
“My family has been exposed to CGS for around a decade. Over those years, time and again, the catechists, parents-- and especially the children-- who I have seen engaged in CGS have radiated the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We work so hard in the Church to help teens enter into and grow in a personal relationship with Jesus. The beauty of CGS is that it begins that work in a healthy and lasting way with the littlest of Christ’s disciples, nurturing a trusting and loving relationship with the Good Shepherd. I cannot recommend CGS highly enough!”
Chris Hurtubise
Associate Director of Catholic Formation, Diocese of Superior
"Six years ago, I attended my first CGS class. I had taught 3rd grade religion for 14 years, but never in all the years of taking continued learning did I feel so fed by the Holy Spirit! I had a new purpose. As I started CGS in our church, I noticed the children absorb so much more! My words will never do justice to this program! I have encouraged adults to take the classes to feed their own hunger of the Lord!"
Debra L.
Religious Education Teacher