The Catholic Telegraph, Nov. 8, 2002
By Lenore Christopher
ARCHDIOCESE — Forty years. That’s how long the Cursillo movement has been active in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, a milestone that was celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in the fall with Auxiliary Bishop Carl K. Moeddel, followed by a reunion, dinner and program.
Those who have taken part in a Cursillo weekend say it has expanded their prayer life, helped them to grow spiritually and aided in spreading God’s Word within the context of everyday life. Often, however, Catholics lack the words to explain the formation process. They just know they feel closer to God.
For Curtis Kneblik, assistant director for evangelization in the Office of Religious Education, his Cursillo weekend “was a powerful formation retreat where I experienced God in a very real way.”
The Cursillo (Cursillo de Cristiandad), pronounced “cur see yo” which means a “short course in Christian living,” is defined as an encounter with Christ. Started in Majorca, Spain, in the 1940s, Cursillo is a movement within the Catholic Church, dedicated to helping Catholics draw closer to Christ. It employs a method that emphasizes the importance of a balanced life of holiness, continued spiritual formation and evangelization.
The Cursillo movement came to the United States in 1957 and the first three-day (72 hours) weekend, conducted in Spanish, was held in Texas.
There have been 357 Cursillo weekends in the archdiocese, according to Maureen Russell, member of the anniversary planning committee.
Each follows a format that includes prayer, sharing and presentations, for either men or women:
Thursday night is considered the retreat phase of the weekend, including a time to get acquainted, to hear an overview of what is to come and for silent meditation.
The focus of Friday is to help candidates obtain a better understanding of themselves. Five presentations are followed by discussion.
Saturday’s focus is designed to enhance candidate’s relationship with God and includes five more presentations and sharing. Discussions cover such topics as the lay person’s role in the church, meaning of grace and sacraments, importance of prayer and the study of God, leadership and living Christianity in community, the call to bring Christ to others and the importance of supporting each other.
Cursillo concludes on Sunday with a culmination of everything that has been learned, focused on how each can help God fulfill His will. In the evening, participants meet and enter the larger Cursillo community.
After the weekend, Cursillistas — those who have completed the three-day weekend — assist one another with group reunions or gatherings of three to five people who share their faith journeys; and ultreyas, gatherings of the larger Cursillo community.
Russell reflected on “all the Cursillistas who have enriched my life and helped me grow through ultreya and friendship group. I wondered what my spiritual journey would have been like had God not invited me to make a Cursillo.
“We have am awful lot to celebrate,” she said.
Cursillo weekends also present a valuable opportunity for spiritual direction and the time spent with other believers. “It’s a lot of fun,” said Russell.
Because Cursillistas believe they have a major contribution to make to the church and society, “the Cursillo movement (has) aided in the development of other movements,” she said, including Kairos in the high schools and prisons, as well as similar three-day weekends, some known as Walks to Emmaus, in Protestant denominations.
While, in the past, the Cursillo Movement was primarily thought of as a source of individual spiritual growth, today, Cursillistas believe they need to be apostolic. By living a fully Christian life, Cursillistas, who are developed to be leaders, feel called to spread the Word of God.
Kathy Hoefler at the St. Leonard Faith Community in Centerville agrees. “We are lead by the Spirit to take an active role in each others lives in whatever situations we encounter,” she said.
“During my Cursillo weekend, I received the information and tools necessary to evangelize my condo complex,” she said. “I started a Women’s Non-denominational Fellowship Group and now have 26 active members that meet monthly for prayer and sharing.”
Hoefler admits, “I would not have thought of doing this before my Cursillo weekend. It was only after prayer to the Spirit and the continuing encouragement from my Cursillo community that I was able to evangelize the environment of my complex.
“Our fellowship group is now an active, positive group of Christians geared to doing good works in our environment,” said Hoefler. “We are providing companionship for the lonely, transportation for those who need it and encouragement through prayer for those who find themselves in difficult situations.”
“Carol and I are currently members of St. Jude Parish in Cincinnati and attend St. Margaret Mary Ultreya, after having spent five years in Somerset, Ky.,” said Ken Kluener.
“When we moved to Somerset, with its one Catholic church, our expectations were that Cursillo would be left behind in Cincinnati. But there at St Mildred’s Church was an Ultreya meeting regularly. They were, and still are, a community on fire with the Holy Spirit,” said Kluener.
“How fortunate we were to be able to form friendship groups and have an Ultreya to attend. Our lives were changed back in 1966 when we made our three days and we continue to be challenged and supported on our journey with the Lord. What a blessing this movement is to the church,” said Kluener.