For five decades, Catholics in the U.S. have been on a journey of spirituality and evangelization through Cursillo de Cristianidad, which in Spanish means a short course on Christianity. The program has existed in the Diocese of Rochester for four of those decades.
Cursillistas, who are alumni of the program, will celebrate the anniversaries with a talk and a special Mass from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester.
“It has made my life more faith-centered,” said Chuck Hasso, assistant lay director for the Rochester Cursillo Movement, which covers the entire Diocese of Rochester. “I spend more time in reflection and prayer, compared to what I did before. I try to consider what God wants me to do before making a decision.”
As part of the cathedral event Hasso will give the Fourth Day, or a follow-up talk, to the men who completed the most recent Men’s No. 82 Cursillo Weekend Nov. 8-11 at Camp Stella Maris in Livonia. Twenty-two men made the weekend and were welcomed into the Cursillo community during a closing Mass.
“Basically, I’ll be giving my thoughts on how a person should take what they learned on a three-day weekend and apply it for the rest of their life,” said Hasso, a parishioner of St. Rita Church in Webster.
Since Hasso made his Cursillo weekend (Men’s No. 73) nine years ago in Hornell, his entire family has begun participating in Cursillo, he said. His wife is a Cursillista, and his two daughters, ages 15 and 13, volunteer during Cursillo weekends.
A Cursillo weekend, which starts on a Thursday evening and ends on a Sunday morning, is filled with discussions and meditations, said Carole Eilers-Lloyd, who is another volunteer who cooks food and does other tasks for participants.
Though there are many moments of intense sharing, the weekend also has levity, such as skits, she said.
Participants, who are accompanied by a Cursillista sponsor, are reminded that they need to take God’s message of love to the world and that they should live out a commitment to Christianity through service, Eilers-Lloyd said.
“They learn what it is to be a leader for Christ,” she said.
Each participant is given a Cursillo cross with the words “Christ is Counting on You” on the back. They also are taught a greeting of De Colores, or “Many Colors,” that they can use with other Cursillistas and are encouraged to meet with small groups to continue the spiritual journey.
The program has so many Spanish names because it originated in Spain in the late 1940s. As part of that, Catholic laity began to undertake renewal efforts among young people in Majorca, Spain. The first Cursillo weekend in the United States was in 1957 in Waco, Texas.
In 1967, with the approval of Bishop Fulton Sheen, the Cursillo movement was introduced into the Diocese of Rochester, and the first men’s Cursillo weekend was held at McQuaid Jesuit High School during Thanksgiving weekend. More than 6,000 men and women in the diocese have participated in Cursillo.
Eilers-Lloyd, one of the 6,000, said her weekend helped change her life. Afterwards, she became connected with a spiritual director, who eventually encouraged her to become a spiritual director as well.
“It was like putting on a comfortable slipper,” Eilers-Lloyd said of being a spiritual director.
Judy Savaria of Dundee, a member of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva, said her Cursillo weekend also was life-changing. Friends from her church asked her to attend Women’s No. 68 in Auburn in 1999. Now she is a facilitator for the Ultreya Center in Geneva, which gathers small groups of Cursillistas together for prayer and reflection.
“When you go on a weekend and help other people, it’s very nourishing and renewing,” she said. “It keeps you going as you develop your own spirituality. You want to share it with others.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Women’s No. 77 Cursillo Weekend is being planned for July 17-20, 2008, at Christ the King Church in Irondequoit. For details, call Carole Eilers-Lloyd at 585-624-4614 or visit www.rochestercursillo.org.