Cursillo Movement marks 50 years

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

The Archdiocese of Louisville Cursillo Movement will celebrate its 50th anniversary June 29 with a 3 p.m. Mass at St. Barnabas Church, 3042 Hikes Lane. Father Jeffrey Shooner will celebrate the liturgy.

Cursillo — a Spanish word that means “short course” — is a Catholic movement centered on Christian living led by lay people. It originated in Spain in 1944 in response to Pope Pius XII’s desire to energize Catholics to return to their Christian values, said Diane Manias, a leader in the Cursillo Movement in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

From there, the Cursillo Movement quickly spread throughout the world, she explained. It came to the United States in 1957. The first Cursillo was held in Louisville in 1964, said Manias, a parishioner of St. Edward Church.

“There was a hunger after Vatican II for more lay people to become leaders in the church,” Ken Jackey, another leader in the Louisville Cursillo, added.

Those closely involved in the Cursillo Movement in Louisville emphasize that Cursillo is not a retreat. Cursillo, Manias explained during an interview at the Maloney Center earlier this week, is a three-day experience designed to meet a person on his or her individual faith journey. Participants are encouraged to develop or re-awaken a personal relationship with the Lord, she said.

During the weekend, participants hear personal witnesses of faith from Cursillo leaders. They also hear about the need for prayer and ways to live their lives in union with God, Jackey said.

What makes Cursillo so successful, Jackey said, is the support structure that Cursillo has in place. Cursillistas (those who have experienced Cursillo) are invited to join Friendship Groups, small faith-sharing communities, following their three-day experience.

“Some of these groups in the archdiocese have been meeting for 50 years,” Jackey noted.

Mary Ann Wrenn, the lay director of the Cursillo Movement in the Archdiocese of Louisville and a member of St. Peter the Apostle Church, said Cursillo views evangelization as something that happens in a natural way. It’s not about preaching, she said, but leading by example.

In a letter in honor of the Cursillo’s 50th anniversary in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz noted that evangelization has three steps.

“The first two are to deepen our faith and have confidence in the Gospel. The third is to share our faith through an attractive witness to the Gospel. I cannot think of a better way to learn about and carry out these three steps than through Cursillo, which … provides adult Catholics with the tools they need to learn, pray, share, and serve in the context of a loving community,” wrote Archbishop Kurtz, who made a Cursillo in 1980.

Jackey described his own experience with Cursillo as a “life-changing event.”

Before Cursillo, “I knew about the teachings of the church. I had experienced Christ in my head, but not in my heart. At Cursillo, I experienced Christ is my heart. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ until Cursillo. I didn’t even know that was possible,” Jackey said.

At least one Cursillo for men and one for women are held annually in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Friar Bob Baxter, of the Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation at Mount St. Francis, Ind., serves as the group’s spiritual adviser. Deacon Steve Smith, a permanent deacon at St. Peter the Apostle, is the group’s assistant spiritual adviser.

Today, Cursillo is present in most dioceses throughout the U.S. and in more than 60 countries. More than five million Catholics worldwide have made a Cursillo, including more than 4,000 in the Archdiocese of Louisville, said Jackey, a member of St. Martha Church. Approximately 180 Cursillos have been held in the Archdiocese of Louisville and six joint-weekend Cursillos have been held at Mt. St. Francis in Southern, Ind.

Following the anniversary Mass, participants will gather in St. Barnabas’ Gallagher Hall for fellowship and a meal.

For more information about this event or the Cursillo Movement, email Any Catholic who is interested in Cursillo can attend an Ultreya  — an informational gathering — at the Flaget Center, 1935 Lewiston Drive, on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.

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