The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was founded by two Catholic laywomen: Sofia Cavalletti, a Biblical scholar, and Gianna Gobbi, a teacher trained by Maria Montessori. In 1954, Cavalletti was asked to give three young boys some religion lessons. She had never worked with children. She wasn't sure what to do. So she started the lesson by reading the first page of Genesis to them. The boys spent two hours pondering each phrase on the page. Their joy surprised her. Cavalletti continued her Bible lessons. A short time later, Gobbi joined her. She brought a small model altar and some religious materials used at mass.
The children enjoyed working with the materials. So the catechists began using them in their presentations of Scripture. After each presentation, the children were invited to work with the materials themselves. In doing this personal work, children internalize the Word of God, Cavalletti insists. "The help the adult can give the child is only preliminary and peripheral and one that halts - that must halt - on the threshold of the 'place' where God speaks with His creation," Cavalletti wrote.