A Cursillo weekend is the gift that keeps on giving

Gail Shepard, Deacon Michael Hill and Deacon Mark Mies discuss upcoming plans for Cursillo weekends for men and women. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Enflame convocation of 2019 was a clarion call to Catholics of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to missionary discipleship.

But it is not the first archdiocesan program to invite Catholics into a more personal relationship with Christ.

For decades now, Cursillos de Cristiandad — or Cursillo, for short — has offered spiritual renewal to weekend retreatants.

Literally translated, the Spanish word “cursillo” means “course” or “lesson.” It is known as “a short course in Christianity,” developed in Spain in 1944 by a group of friends who gathered for retreats.

“Friendship is at the root of the Cursillo movement,” said Gail Shepard, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, who made a three-day Cursillo retreat in 2009. “It’s friendship with others and friendship with Jesus Christ.”

One of the slogans in the Cursillo movement puts it simply: “Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.”

The small-group format reflects that focus on friendship. And although it has been duplicated often, it originated with Cursillo.

“Cursillo is the original three-day movement, which is an encounter with yourself, an encounter with others and an encounter with Christ,” said Deacon Michael Hill, who made a Cursillo in 2002 and is now spiritual adviser for Cursillo in the archdiocese. 

Unlike the typical retreat, this experience continues after the three-day experience, because the participants — now called “Cursillistas” — continue to hold weekly “friendship group reunions” and larger gatherings called “ultrayas.” 

The weekly reunions are structured for prayer and sharing, utilizing the “Cursillo tripod” of piety, study and action, said Deacon Mark Mies, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, who made a Cursillo in 2004.

“For instance, if we are talking about piety, we ask, ‘What was the most help to my spiritual life this week?’ and, ‘When was I most aware of Christ’s presence this week?” said Deacon Mies.

The tripod is a good analogy to work with, said Deacon Hill. Not only are all three legs necessary, but they all must be the same length. Deficiencies in any one of the legs leave the tripod unstable and vulnerable to collapse.

The great thing about meeting in a small group and asking questions about living the method — the tripod — is that it is a mechanism of accountability, said Shepard.

One of the misconceptions of Cursillo is that since it is an “archdiocesan” movement, it draws people out of the parish. But Cursillo organizers disagree. 

“One of the things we teach in Cursillo is ‘Bloom where you are planted,’” said Deacon Mies. “Cursillo is not trying to pull you away; it’s telling you to go back to your parish and make a difference.”

In fact, participating in Cursillo has led some men — like him — to become deacons, said Deacon Mies.

Both a men’s and a women’s Cursillo weekend is scheduled for this fall. The men’s weekend will be Sept. 23-26; the women’s, Nov. 11-14. Both will be held at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

The cost to attend is a freewill donation, which is taken up on Sundays at the end of the retreat. Scholarships are available for those needing financial assistance, and inability to pay is never an obstacle.

The usual practice is to have someone active in Cursillo to sponsor the prospective retreatant, but sponsors can be found for those who do not have one.

To apply, visit the website at: cursillokcks.com. At the top of the homepage, click on “Weekend Dates & Locations.” Scroll down to and click “Download Application.”

The application should be submitted at least four weeks before the date of the Cursillo event.

For information and questions, call Kathy Ducey at (816) 804-9324.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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