Cursillo movement seeks to influence spiritual environment



The Cursillo movement is active in South Carolina, yet many Catholics do not know much about it.

There is a man in the Pee Dee who knows a lot about it and wants the state to learn more as well.

When he’s not banging away at nails, knocking down bricks or arranging work schedules of professional craftsmen, Gabe Timpano is the lay director of the Cursillo movement in South Carolina and a parishioner of Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawley’s Island.

“Awareness of the Cursillo movement is unfortunately lacking,” said Timpano. “There are those who never heard of our movement and then there are those who have the wrong concept embedded in their minds. This makes recruitment into the movement very difficult.”

He continued, “Many even think that Cursillo is a ‘click,’ while others think it’s a ‘cult.’ I want people to see that it is not a ‘cult’ and that it is backed by the Catholic Church.”

To help remedy this situation Timpano and others plan to advise those in the diocese what the movement is and what it is not. In a series of information nights to be held at various parishes, they plan to discuss the history of Cursillo, its purpose, its method and how will Cursillo benefit the individual.

Shortly after coming to South Carolina from New York, Timpano attended the long weekend of Cursillo, which is “a short course” in Christianity. He’s been hooked on the movement ever since.

“When I went through the three days, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Christianity. My wife wanted me to go to Cursillo so she could go, because at the time, if the husband didn’t go, the wife couldn’t go. That’s the way it was,” he said. “After a year, she convinced me to ‘Do it for me,’ so I had to go. Once I got there, and I went through the three days, I realized that I didn’t know beans about Christianity. You really get educated. You have about 15 talks during the three days of which six are given by the priests or spiritual advisors, and the other nine are given by laymen.”

After his first weekend as a participant in the program, Timpano became part of a team of leaders who help put on the program for others. “I’ve made 16 of those,” he proudly adds.

One thing led to another, and for several years he’s been in charge of the Cursillo program for Catholics in the state, serving as chairman of the secretariat, which consists of two representatives from each deanery.

Sponsors are used for enrollment into the program. Non-Catholics are not accepted.

Other churches use the program for their members, whether they call it Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus, or some other name. A similar program called Kairos is offered to prison inmates.

A central theme of the movement, regardless of religious denomination, is “Make a Friend. Be a Friend. Bring a Friend to Christ.”

Timpano and others do that in a sense of “self-giving,” he said. That was illustrated recently through his and several other Cursillistas involvement in the renovation of the former St. Cyprian’s School into the new Vincent Center in Georgetown.

A retired but still licensed contractor, Timpano agreed to serve as contractor on the project for cost plus $1.

The facility was dedicated on July 5, and after the meal at St. Cyprian’s and the blessing ceremony, Timpano met with Bishop Robert J. Baker.

“Would you be here if not for Cursillo?” Bishop Baker asked him. “What made you leave a prosperous building activity and work here every working day for the last six months?

“Cursillo,” he answered for Timpano.

The general contractor said the bishop’s remarks made him think about it.

“I learned self-giving in Cursillo,” Timpano said. “After we dedicated the building at St. Cyprian, I wanted to get Cursillo exposed to the whole state because I get so many questions.”

The Murrells Inlet resident said more than 1,000 people in South Carolina have gone through Cursillo. “If you ask me what Cursillo is, you’d get a thousand different answers.”

According to Timpano, “The mission of Cursillo is to evangelize the world. You take the mission of the Catholic Church, and it is exactly the same. In fact we wrote up our pastoral plan to tie in with the pastoral plan of the diocese.”

The Ultreya, or post Cursillo, involves getting people to follow Christ.

“The Ultreya is the counter-environment of Christian friendship realized in a concrete form once a week to combat the environment of the secular word,” states the national Cursillo Web site, Groups of five or six people are asked to meet periodically in community for 20 to 40 minutes for lay and spiritual talks.

Tommy Howard of The Georgetown Times contributed to this article.