Draw closer to God through CursilloBy: Linda Leicht Springfield MO
Before Margarita Gagliardi experienced a Cursillo Weekend she was a “Sunday Mass Catholic.” Now, she enjoys a “close relationship with God.”
Gagliardi experienced that weekend nearly 40 years ago, but she continues to grow in her faith thanks to the tools she took away from her Cursillo weekend. She meets each week in her small Cursillo group and at larger monthly Ultreyas.
“Cursillo offers a well-structured way to live the Christian life,” said Fr. Bill Hodgson, the diocesan Cursillo spiritual moderator. “There’s a lot of fads of spiritualities, but Cursillo is really rooted in the Church and the sacraments and a daily discipline of Christian discipleship. Cursillo means ‘short course.’ It is a short course in Christianity.”
The Cursillo Movement began in 1944 in Majorca, Spain, and by the 1970s it had spread throughout the world, including here in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. The three-day weekends in the diocese filled up until about 10 years ago, when local interest waned. The last Cursillo weekend in the diocese was held about 2009.
Since then, Cursillistas—people who have completed a Cursillo Weekend—have continued to meet and encourage each other in their faith journeys. Instead of talking about politics or the latest gossip, the groups discuss how God is working in their lives and share experiences.
That is one of the unique aspects of the Cursillo Movement. It is a three-day weekend filled with prayer, worship, education, and opportunities that strengthen faith. But it does not end on Sunday night when the weekend concludes.
The experience continues for the “Fourth Day,” providing an on-going journey of faith and apostolic action through regular small group meetings and the Ultreya—meaning “onward”—with other Cursillistas and those who hope to attend a Cursillo Weekend.
“It really helps you to grow,” said Gagliardi, who described her experience of meeting Jesus in a new way. “For me, it started on the weekend. … I met my friend. Now He is with me, walking hand and hand. I was in tears of excitement because I started a new relationship with God.”
Noreen Penn made her Cursillo in 1976, as soon as it was available to her in the diocese. She also spent five years as lay director of Cursillo for the diocese.
“Cursillo was so fabulous, so alive,” Penn said. “It teaches us to make a friend, be a friend, then bring that person to Christ. When you go forth after that Cursillo Weekend with that feeling, you want other people to have that feeling, too.”
“That’s why we want to start the weekends again,” said Gagliardi. “Especially now, with so much hatred and violence in the world.”
Sharon Essner is helping to coordinate Cursillo in Cape Girardeau, where interest has remained high and is growing. During the 2014-15 Cursillo season, about 20 people in southeast Missouri attended Cursillo in St. Louis, and even more are expected this season. Essner has been getting more and more calls asking about Cursillo.
“The Holy Spirit is moving like crazy,” she said. “It’s exciting to watch it happen.”
The diocese is working with the national Cursillo office to reinstitute the program in southern Missouri, with a core group already studying the Cursillo Method and Mentality so it can form leaders. But some challenges remain, especially finding appropriate locations to host the weekends in all areas of the diocese.
“We’re praying for God to show us where we can do a weekend,” Essner said.
Cursillo has had significant support from both the diocese and the Vatican. Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., who recently moved to the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, is a Cursillista, as is Cardinal Bernard Law, who served as bishop here when Cursillo began in the diocese. Bishop Emeritus John J. Leibrecht has always been a supporter of the program.
Cursillo has received the blessings of several popes, including Pope Paul VI, who appointed St. Paul as the official protector of the Cursillo Movement; St. Pope John Paul II; Pope Benedict XVI; and Pope Francis, who met with European Cursillistas gathering in Rome this spring.
Pope Francis spent more than an hour with the estimated 7,000 Cursillistas at the gathering in April, thanking them for what they do for the Church and encouraging them to do even more.
“The Spirit motivates us to go out of our own comfort zones,” the Pope said. “How beautiful it is to proclaim to everyone the love of God who saves us and makes sense of our lives! … and to help men and women of our time to discover the beauty of faith and of the life of grace that we can live in the Church, our mother!”