August 9, 2013

Cursillo: Living the ‘Fourth Day’ for 50 years, looking to the future

The Central Indiana Cursillo Community secretariat for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Diocese of Lafayette pose for a picture at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis on Feb. 2. Front row: Sandy Neidigh, left, Carlos Alatorre, Tom Kitchin, Beth Doran, Kathy Schallert and Molly Sanders. Back row: John Ameis, left, Tim Hays, Mark Scheller, Mark Totleben, Marty Van der Burgt, Tony Avellana, Father Glenn O’Connor, who serves as Cursillo spiritual director in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and Father Mike McKinney, Cursillo spiritual director in the Diocese of Lafayette. (Submitted photo)

The Central Indiana Cursillo Community secretariat for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Diocese of Lafayette pose for a picture at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis on Feb. 2. Front row: Sandy Neidigh, left, Carlos Alatorre, Tom Kitchin, Beth Doran, Kathy Schallert and Molly Sanders. Back row: John Ameis, left, Tim Hays, Mark Scheller, Mark Totleben, Marty Van der Burgt, Tony Avellana, Father Glenn O’Connor, who serves as Cursillo spiritual director in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and Father Mike McKinney, Cursillo spiritual director in the Diocese of Lafayette. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Three days. It’s a relatively short time, yet much can happen. Just ask a “Cursillista,” one who has experienced a three-day Cursillo retreat.

For almost 50 years, Cursillo has proven to be a faith-growing and even life-changing event for thousands in Indiana.

As the movement nears the half-century mark locally, the local secretariat has begun several new initiatives to help the movement flourish—preparing to offer Cursillo in Spanish; conducting the region’s first “Cursillo de Cursillos”—a retreat for Cursillo leaders; and initiating new forms of communication.

‘Short course’

Cursillo—Spanish for “short course”—is a lay movement in the Church that began in Spain in 1944, and has been active in Indiana since 1964.

It involves a three-day retreat which seeks to help Catholics grow in their relationship with Christ. After the retreat, participants are invited to continue growing through group reunions and other opportunities.

The Central Indiana Cursillo Committee (CICC) oversees the movement in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Diocese of Lafayette. Four retreats are offered each year—one for men and one for women in the spring, and then again in the fall.

According to the CICC website, Cursillo promotes “a method of piety, study and action in order to evangelize the world” and to live their motto: “Be a friend, make a friend, bring a friend to Christ.”

While Cursillo is primarily led by lay Catholics, priests are strongly involved in the process. Each retreat has a priest serving as spiritual director and ministering sacraments, and several of the talks are presented by priests.

‘Fourth Day’

The retreat serves as a catalyst to ongoing personal spiritual growth.

“We consider the post-Cursillo [timeframe] to be the most important,” says John Ameis, lay director for CICC. “A lot of people think our purpose is to get people to the weekend. That’s important, but the real purpose is the ‘Fourth Day.’ The post-Cursillo is the rest of our lives. That’s when our relationship with Christ changes, deepens and allows us to grow as we need to act and live as authentic Christians.”

This development is done through an emphasis during the retreat on piety, study and action. These three components are reinforced after the retreat through weekly group meetings, periodic larger group meetings called “ultreyas,” and a program once called the School of Leaders but now referred to as Pilgrim’s Path.

According to Molly Sanders, communications director for CICC, “Pilgrim’s Path forms and develops Cursillo leaders in the mentality of the movement and offers a Christian community for support. It’s a place of formation where we grow in our commitment to Christ and the mission of the Church.”

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin is a Cursillista and speaks highly of Cursillo.

“Cursillo offers each participant the opportunity to step out of his or her routine and, with the context of an intense experience of community, examine their commitment to Christ.

“Cursillo does not intend to form a parallel church or a source of ‘alternative parish,’ ” the archbishop explains. “Instead, the movement seeks to deepen the faith of Catholic men and women, thereby motivating them to become more active in their respective parishes and better equipped to witness to Jesus Christ.”

Building a foundation for Latinos

Despite Cursillo having its beginnings in Spain and its use of Spanish words and phrases, language has proven to be a barrier to involving the growing Hispanic community in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Diocese of Lafayette.

In an effort to reach out to Latinos, CICC has been seeking Spanish-speaking leaders from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Diocese of Lafayette who have been through Cursillo.

“We found about 30 Cursillistas, mostly who are here from another country, who speak some or no English,” says Ameis.

That group has been meeting twice a month for the last six months at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Kokomo, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

“We’re trying to build a foundation of knowledgeable, active Cursillistas so when we start having Latino Cursillo, they have a community to connect with,” Ameis says.

The first regional Cursillo in Spanish for men will be held on Feb. 20-23, 2013, with the women’s retreat on Feb. 27-March 2, 2013. Both will be held at Frankfort Camp Ministries in Frankfort, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

‘Taking the next step’

Latinos will also be able to participate in the region’s first “Cursillo de Cursillos.”

Like Cursillo, the program consists of three days of talks, with time for meditation and discussion. The CICC website further describes Cursillo de Cursillos as more relaxed, with a purpose of providing a deeper understanding of the concepts promoted during Cursillo and an eye toward developing leadership.

“It’s an upgrade on the talks we’ve previously heard,” says Sanders. “The difference is they’re more in-depth, there’s more formation. It’s taking that next step.

“[CICC] is very excited to be offering this for the first time.”

Not only is Cursillo de Cursillos being offered for the first time, it is also being offered in both English and Spanish. The English retreat will be held from Aug. 22-25, and the Spanish retreat will be offered from Aug. 30-Sept. 1, both at Frankfort Camp Ministries.

Finding ways to communicate

According to Ameis, there are between 5,800 and 6,000 Cursillistas in the CICC region.

To assist communication, CICC will switch to an online e-mail and communications product.

“We’re excited about what it’s going to do to help us stay in touch with our community and for them to stay in touch with us,” he says. “They’ll be able to update their information online. People can let us know how to keep in touch with them.”

Cursillistas—and those interested in Cursillo—can also stay informed by visiting CICC’s new website, www.cursillo-cicc.org, launched in June.

“It’s a work in progress, and we’re going to be doing more with it. We already have some videos up,” says Sanders. “We’re really excited about it.”

CICC has also created a Facebook page—Central Indiana Cursillo Community—and its own Twitter feed, @CursilloCICC.

‘A daily positive effect’

Regardless of progress and changes as Cursillo enters its 50th year in the archdiocese, Cursillistas laud the program for its effect on their lives.

Ron Greulich, a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, attended Cursillo in October 2009.

“On my first Cursillo retreat weekend, the primary thing I remember learning was that my prison and other ministries were not my own, that in fact, God was working through me. And if I turned my ministry over to him in prayer, the fruits of my efforts would increase exponentially—and they did.”

Greulich felt so changed by his first Cursillo experience that he continued participating.

“In addition to weekly group meetings, I have served on two subsequent retreat weekends,” he says. “My life was changed on each of those weekends as well, as I saw once again how the Holy Spirit works.”

Greulich’s fellow parishioner, Holly Herber-Repp, also attended Cursillo in October 2009 and has continued her involvement.

“It has had a daily positive effect from which I learn and grow,” she says. “I allow myself more time for stillness and prayer, especially in the morning so I can aim to be Christ’s instrument.”

Ameis, who is a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Noblesville, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, first participated in Cursillo in 1985 and has been involved ever since.

“After [Cursillo], I was a lot more sensitive to when [others] exhibited signs of need, maybe someone to listen, or money, or food,” he says. “Those became a lot more alive and real because my way of living and looking at people changed.

“I went from knowing God loves me to understanding that he loves me. That transformation has changed me in ways I can’t describe.”
 

(For more information on Cursillo, log on to their website at www.cursillo-cicc.org, or contact your parish for the name of its Cursillo contact.)

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