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Cursillo Movement


The Cursillo Movement is a movement of the Church in the area of the apostolate of the laity that has as its purpose the Christianization of the world through the apostolic action of Christian leaders in all the areas of human activity. The Movement's purpose is achieved by means of a strategy and a method. The strategy involves seeking out (the precursillo stage) the key people in the different environments, converting them to a deeper relationship with God by having them accept their role as lay apostles and then linking them together for their mutual support and apostolic effectiveness (the postcursillo stage).

The cursillo de cristianidad or "little course in Christianity" is a three-day period of spiritual renewal or of spiritual awakening that attempts to convey a new sense of the dynamic and personalistic aspects of the Christian faith. The weekend is an intensive experience in Christian community living centered on Christ and built around 15 talks (ten by laymen, five by priests), active participation in the discussions and related activities, and the celebration of the Liturgy. The follow-up program focuses on small weekly reunions of three to five persons and larger group reunions, called ultreyas, in which participants share experiences and insights derived from their prayer life, study, and apostolic action.

The name most often mentioned in connection with the development of the cursillo is that of Juan Hervas, Bishop of Ciudad Real, Spain. However, in his own writing Bp. Hervas disclaimed the idea that the final product was the work of any one person. He said that the cursillos were produced by a team of clergy and laymen working under the encouragement and direction of their bishop and that the individual contributors prefer to remain anonymous. The available evidence indicates also that the development of the cursillo was a gradual process and that the final product was the result of much experimentation and revision.

The cursillo seems to have been in use in its present form in Spain about 1949. It first made its appearance in the U.S. among the Spanish-speaking people of the Southwest, particularly Texas. Cursillos in Spanish spread from this area to the far extremities of the nation, New York and San Francisco, and north into Michigan and surrounding areas.

The Movement operates within the framework of diocesan and parish pastoral plans, and functions autonomously in each diocese (120 in the U.S.) under the direction of the bishop. Responsibility for growth and effectiveness rests with a diocesan secretariat and a diocesan leaders' school, or both. By 1977, when Spain was celebrating the twenty-eighth anniversary of the first cursillo, the Movement was operative on five continents, in nearly fifty countries, with a total of 857 dioceses; there are two and one half million cursillistas, of whom nearly 500,000 are in the U.S.

Stability and acceptability of the Cursillo Movement by the hierarchy would not have been possible without its being accepted and encouraged by the Holy See. Paul VI was the first pope to speak about the Movement. In 1963, he named St. Paul its patron. Later in an allocution on May 28, 1966, on the occasion of the first World Ultreya in Rome, he noted that the Christian life contains many riches of which Christians are unaware and commended Cursillo for making it possible to recall these riches to a conscious level and its ability to enrich cursillistas with a sensus ecclesiae. He reminded the cursillistas that they should take the lead in renewing the world for Christ by implementing the documents of Vatican Council II.

The U.S. Movement is overseen by a national board of 24 priests and laity and Bishop Joseph Green of Adrian, Mich., who is National Episcopal Advisor to the Movement and the liaison with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. A National Center is staffed and located in Dallas, Texas, and provides the local movements with Cursillo literature and educational material, including a monthly magazine, Ultreya. The modern thrust of Cursillo in the U.S. is in terms of evangelization. It sees itself as an instrument of evangelization for the Church in the world. The last two National Encounters (1973 and 1977) have focused on this theme and the challenge of meeting today's need for a Catholic laity that will respond individually and collectively to their vocation to be evangelizers in the world.

Bibliography: j. hervas y benet, "The Cursillos de cristianidad: A Magnificent Instrument of Christian Renewal and of Apostolic Conquest," Christ to the World 7 (1962) 161178, 312324.

[g. p. hughes/

j. f. byron]

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