Cursillo movement celebrates silver anniversary in SC

CHAPIN — Mary Ols said, “It was an emotional experience for me.”

She was referring to the silver jubilee celebration June 14 of the Cursillo movement in the Diocese of Charleston, and Mary Ols had good reason to become emotional. She and her husband were among the founders of the South Carolina movement in June 1978.

Cursillo means “little course” in Spanish and is a spiritual renewal movement whose adherents, Catholics and other Christians, hope to restore the world to Christ. The little course part is a three-day weekend retreat, followed by what cursillistas call “the fourth day, the rest of your life.”

“It’s not another organization,” said diocesan lay director Sharon Thomas, a parishioner of St. Philip Benizi in Moncks Corner. “It’s something that changes your life. The whole mission and purpose of the Cursillo movement is to get out in your environment. We have a prayer group at our school and we’ve seen miracles happen with our students.”

During the anniversary mass, Bishop Robert J. Baker, a cursillista himself, asked the congregation for a miracle of a different sort, reconciliation. In a moving homily, the Bishop of Charleston talked about the reconciling needed for abusive priests and some bishops who covered up their deeds.

“As St. Paul says, you and I, as members of the Church, have been entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation. I thank God in a particular way for our Cursillo movement in this diocese for the past 25 years, for being an agent, an avenue, an instrument of God’s reconciling power in Jesus,” the bishop said.

Bishop Baker talked about restoring broken trust and how “reconciliation within the Church and with other ecclesial and faith communities” will be a plank in the diocese’s vision statement, now being drafted and reviewed. And he tied his theme into the visit by Archbishop Anthony Obinna, a Nigerian of the Igbo tribe, who offered a Mass for a special reconciliation at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston June 22.

The Igbo were brought to the Carolinas and other parts of the south as slaves. Bishop Baker said that the Nigerian Church acknowledged that their own people sold other Igbos into slavery, and now seeks further reconciliation – for the collective suicides of hundreds of Igbo in the ocean off St. Simon Island in Georgia. In despair, they walked into the sea, he said, and never came out alive.

“Archbishop Obinna knows that story. He told me there’s a need for spiritual healing for that long-ago event, and only an African can do this,” he said. “I’ve just given two areas in our Church where reconciliation and healing are taking place, two open gaping wounds. May you, the Cursillo community, continue to help people find reconciliation in Christ.”

Before the mass, concelebrated by Father Don Abbot, former spiritual director of Cursillo in the Diocese of Charleston, cursillistas heard the history of the movement in the state and testimony, stories and audio-visual presentations about past Cursillo weekends and prayer meetings called Ultreyas. Sharon Thomas also announced that the first Spanish language Cursillos in South Carolina are scheduled for the fall.

“It’s neat that we can do this in our 25th anniversary year, especially since the Cursillo movement began in Spain,” she said.