Cursillos de Cristianidad

In our struggle to live in the secular world we are challenged to be Christians, not just on Sundays, but in all that we are and all that we do.  Cursillos de Cristianidad or Cursillo en Cristianidad (pronounced kur-see-yo) provides the support and growth needed to enrich our relationship with God. “Cursillo” (the word itself means “little course” while the entire phrase translates into “short course in Christian living) is a renewal ministry of the Roman Catholic Church which promotes a revitalization of the world The transference of Christ’s values to others in families, schools, workplaces and all environments is the Christianization that cursillo promotes.  The cursillo method focuses on training lay people to become effective leaders.  Cursillo develops in adult Christians a consciousness of their power and mission to become leaders in the work of Christian renewal, whole sustaining them through Christian community. The cursillo method enables a means for participants to expand their prayer life, have an ongoing study program, and share their faith.

The Cursillo Method

The method begins with a three day weekend which helps “candidates” to experience their Catholic faith and encourages a spiritual life that is filled with joy, laughter, and enthusiasm. Candidates are not ordinarily told the details of what will take place on the weekend so that the emphasis is “not anticipating” but on participating. Candidates are invited to seek an enriched relationship with God within the framework of a Christian community.  The weekends are held from Thursday evening through Sunday evening.  A team of Catholic lay people and spiritual advisors offer fifteen “rollos“, some given by priests (“mystic rollos“) and some by lay members (“rollos-rollos“).  These talks and discussions emphasize the meaning of grace and the sacraments, the need for prayer, and ways of living in union with God.  The weekend also includes opportunities for personal and communal prayer, and reception of the Sacraments or Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

The Fourth Day

One emphasis of the weekend is on preparing “cursillistas” (those who have completed the weekend) to take the movement’s methods back into the world, on what is referred to as the “fourth day.”  The cursillo provides a two part method to help sustain and nurture cursillistas:

Group Reunions: informal gatherings of three to five people who meet regularly to share their faith and to support each other in their spiritual life.

Ultreyas (pronounced ul-tre-a): gatherings of group reunions.  Members of the group reunions share experiences, pray together and socialize.  Cursillistas share their spirituality and gain insight and ideas that can enhance their Christian life.

The Cursillo Sponsor

One of the key elements of the cursillo method is the sponsor.  To attend a weekend, each candidate must have a sponsor who is an active cursillista. The sponsor is responsible for preparing the candidate for the weekend, establishing the new cursillista in a group reunion, and introducing the new cursillista to the Ultreya.

The History of the Cursillo Movement

The Cursillo movement was founded in Spain. It has since become a universal (and officially approved and blessed by the Pope) renewal ministry which has spread beyond the boundaries of the Church – Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists have all adapted variations of thecursillo to their own communities and beliefs. The foundations of the movement were laid in Majorca, Spain by a group of laymen in the 1940s, while they were refining a technique to train pilgrimage leaders.  A young layman named Eduardo Bonnín, who participated in the early years of the “little courses”, helped develop the cursillos to the point that it became an active renewal movement in the Church. By 1957, the movement had spread to North America, when the first American cursillo was held in Waco, Texas.

The movement in Memphis began in early 1964 when Fathers Vincent McDonald, Michael
Monley, James F. McLean met to discuss organizing a Cursillo Movement in Memphis. Shortly after, the priests with a group of men to traveled to Louisville & Cincinnati for Cursillo weekends. Making the weekend in Louisville were: Dino Chiozza, Clyde Hughey, Joe Tagg, Sr., Jim McWillie and Father McLean. Those who went to Cincinnati included Joe Barnett, Don Dowling, Carl Fitz Dick Rhinehart and Clem Quinn.

The first men’s Cursillo in Memphis was held at Sacred Heart Church on November 5-8, 1964, with 50 candidates led by a team from Cincinnati. The Spiritual Directors were Fr. Germain Krizmanich from Cincinnati, Fr. Francis Hoffer, from Louisville, Fr. McLean and Fr. Michael Monley.  At this first cursillo, there was a priest at every table. Among the priests at the tables were Frs. Francis A. McRedmond, John Scola, Bernard Schneider, Morris G. Strich, William J. Wiley, Vincent McDonald, and Monsignor Leo Ringwald.  Dino Chiozza was the Assistant Rector for Cursillo #1 and was later the rector for Memphis Cusillo #3. The first Clausura (pronounced clo-sur-a), or “closing,” had 50 cursillistas from Cincinnati arriving by chartered plane at their own expense. For the first couple of years, the Cursillo Office was located at St. Patrick Church in downtown Memphis before moving to Sacred Heart Church in mid-town where the men’s Cursillo Weekends were being held.

The first Cursillo for women in Memphis was held in 1965 at St. Agnes Academy under the spiritual direction of Fr. Duane Stenzel along with a team of ladies from Louisville.  the first 3 women’s Cursillos were held at St. Agnes before moving to Sacred Heart.

From November of 1967 through December of 1969, as then part of the Diocese of Nashville, in addition to the weekends in Memphis, the Memphis Cursillo Center put on weekends at St. Ann’s Parish, St. Henry’s Parish, and Christ the King Parish in Nashville, St. Joseph’s Parish in Madison and St. Mary’s Parish in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  In June of 1968, Most Rev. James Daniel Niedergeses, Bishop of Nashville, then known as Father Niedergeses made Cursillo #M17 at St. Ann’s, in Nashville.

In November of 1970 new ecclesiastical boundary lines were drawn creating the new Diocese of Memphis, west of the Tennessee River.  Monsignor Carroll T. Dozier Became its first Bishop. The Memphis Cursillo Center remained as part of the new Diocese of Memphis.

In January 1982, Arch Bishop James Peter Sartain, then known as Father Sartain, made Cursillo #M82 at Sacred Heart in Memphis and sat at the table of Saint Peter.

Early in 1989, at the request of Msgr. Al Kirk, then pastor of St. Mary’s in Jackson, Father David Knight, Spiritual Director,  Jim Provensal, 3 Day Director and the rest of the Secretariat, brought the Ultreyas and Group Reunions to the Jackson Deanery. Later that year the first Cursillo Weekend was held at St. Mary’s School in Jackson, Tennessee.

The Cursillo weekend’s were eventually moved to Strich Center at CBU (October 1984) and then the St. Columba Retreat Center (October 1992) and remained there until September 1994. Ultreyas during that period were held at St. Michaels Church.  The old Blessed Sacrament School was rennovated and the 1st weekend was held there in September 1994, thanks to the time and talents of Rev. Mr. Bill Davis. Blessed Sacrament School came to be the Cursillo Center until the completion of the Queen of Peace Retreat Center in Dancyville.

Today, The Ultreyas are held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at Holy Rosary Parish at 7:00 P.M. and a Grand Ultreya is held annually.

The Cursillo School of Leaders meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday  of each month at 7:00 P.M. at Saint Francis Parish in Cordova.

Since November of 1964, the Memphis Cursillo has touched each of the 49 parishes in our Diocese and in September of 2009 will see it’s 200th weekend and 6,000th cursillista.

(Sources: “Wikipedia Free Online Encyclopedia, The Memphis Cursillo’s Alpha File, and Memphis Cursillo archives.)

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