History of the Cursillo Movement

This November will mark the 57th anniversary of the Cursillo Movement in the Diocese of Toledo.  In the intervening years thousands of men and women have participated in one or more of the 286 Cursillo weekends offered in the diocese, either as a candidate or later as a team member. For the many who have not yet heard of the Cursillo Movement, it’s an opportune moment to learn more.

What is Cursillo?  “Cursillo” is a Spanish word for “little course;” its full name is Cursillo in Christianity.  The “little course” refers to a weekend experience which runs from Thursday night to Sunday night.  The Good News of the Christian message is proclaimed in a series of “conversations” shared by lay members of the team as well as deacon, sister and priest spiritual advisors.  For many who participate, this may be the first time they grasp the fuller significance and impact of their Catholic faith.

The “little course” refers also to the Cursillo method, to which participants (candidates) are introduced on the weekend. In order to continue their growth as disciples of Christ and apostles in their daily surroundings (environments), they are helped to make a plan which includes their prayer life, their on-going Christian formation, and their outreach to others. When they finish the weekend these Cursillistas (Coor-see-is-tas) have a method through which their own spirituality may be developed, lived and shared in any area of human life.

Purpose    Cursillo is more than a weekend experience; it is a movement within the Catholic Church to revitalize individual faith and spiritually revitalize the world.  The goals and strategies established by the US Bishops in the document, Go and Make Disciples, are also those promoted by the Cursillo Movement, i.e., “To so deepen the sense of Scripture and sacrament that Catholics will pray more fully, and, with a greater understanding of Christ’s call, live as disciples at home, at work and in today’s many cultural settings.”  Elsewhere in the document the bishops stress the importance “of strengthening our everyday involvement with those in need, of reflecting on the workplace and media, and of encouraging Catholic involvement in areas of public policy as a way of having greater impact on society’s values.” (US Bishops)  Cursillo calls  these areas of involvement  “environments.”

Method   Cursillistas are encouraged to gather weekly in small groups (3-5 people) to share their progress in prayer, on-going formation, and action (evangelization).  Monthly these groups come together in regional gatherings called Ultreyas for further growth and revitalization.  Thus Cursillistas develop a lifestyle in which their baptismal call becomes primary in all the aspects of their lives.

Getting Started   Any adult Catholic capable of receiving the Sacraments is welcome to make a Cursillo weekend and join this movement. A sponsor is provided for each candidate, to help prepare for the weekend experience and introduce him/her to the follow-up, known as “The Fourth Day.”  Cursillo weekends are gender specific to honor the differences in masculine and feminine spirituality.  Spanish-speaking weekends are offered as the need arises.  Husbands and wives are encouraged to join the movement as a couple; it doesn’t matter who participates first. Non-Catholics are encouraged to make a similar interdenominational weekend such as Koinonia, Via de Cristo, Emmaus, etc.  While many Cursillistas find healing and direction in the weekend, those who have recently experienced an intense trauma such as death of a family member, divorce, etc. are encouraged to give themselves time to grieve before making a Cursillo weekend.  For further information on the Cursillo Movement, please contact one of our current lay directors:  John Lyons lyons5876@gmail.com or  Kathy Otermat  kotermat04@gmail.com or visit the website: www.cursillo419.org.

History of the Movement   The Cursillo Movement evolved from Spain in the early 1940s.   Cursillo grew out of Catholic Action, a movement to involve the laity in the apostolic work of the Church in pre-Vatican II times.   It began when a group of men dedicated themselves to bringing the young men of Mallorca, Spain, to know Christ better.  It developed as they prayed and worked together, sharing their thoughts about the state of the world and the effectiveness of their efforts to bring the light of Christ to it.  Out of their common efforts, dedicated to the work of God, something new in the life of the Church was born.  Church renewal, spiritual renewal, pastoral renewal, the pilgrim style, a pastoral plan, teamwork among leaders – the Cursillo movement grew out of all this. At first the Cursillos were just “little courses” which were given to members of Catholic Action groups as a means of formation to develop effective apostles.  Gradually, the method took shape and spread around the world.  The first Cursillo in the USA was held in Waco, Texas in 1957.  It spread rapidly to other states.  The Cursillo Movement in the USA was organized nationally in 1965.  That same year it was started in the Diocese of Toledo. The first weekend was held at Sts. Peter & Paul, Toledo on November 4, 1965.

Other Renewal Programs  Many other renewal programs were spawned from the Cursillo movement:  Teens Encounter Christ (TEC), Search, Exercise in Christian Living, Marriage Encounter, Christ Renews His Parish, ACTS and more.  Each of these uses the basic techniques developed by the Cursillo movement to reach a wide audience.

Cursillo Sayings

“Make a friend; be a friend; bring that friend to Christ.”

“We’ve got to talk to God about a person before we talk to that person about God.”

“We go to heaven in bunches.”

“Bloom where you’re planted.”

“De Colores!”   (It means:  May the bright colors of God’s love shine upon you.)

“Take a Christian, or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with efforts of all for whatever is noble and good.  Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine.  Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live:  Why are they like this?  Why do they live in this way?  What or who is it that inspires them?  Why are they in our midst?  Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one.”

            -Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World.

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