Cursillo returns to its roots

MONCKS CORNER — The Diocese of Charleston’s Cursillo movement, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of its official founding here in the spring, fashioned something new in September — its first Spanish-language Cursillo weekend. Nine Hispanic candidates committed to the ideals of Cursillo.

“It was a very historic event and a very moving event for me personally,” said Bishop Robert J. Baker.

Bishop Baker celebrated the closing Mass for the weekend. He is a cursillista (a member of the movement) and has been a strong advocate of Cursillos for Hispanics in South Carolina, according to Sharon Thomas, the diocesan lay director. The bishop speaks Spanish; Thomas does not.

“It was both enlightening and awesome. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” she said.

Maria De Cardenas was the driving force behind the Spanish-language Cursillo. She had been working for two years toward the goal of having a weekend in Spanish, Thomas said, and once the details were worked out, it took six months to pull it all together. Jose Sanchez, who heads the southeastern region for the Cursillo movement, brought in one of his service teams to conduct the orientation, and Father David Smith of Orlando preached. Thomas said that it was a unifying experience.

“People from across the state helped out. We solicited support through ultreyas (monthly meetings) in different areas. Father Hayden (Vaverek, pastor of St. Philip Benizi) offered our facilities, and even parishioners who are not cursillistas helped out. Doug Traverson, a caterer from Pawley’s Island, brought his truck and prepared the food at cost,” Thomas said.

Another unifying aspect lay in the mix of permanent residents and migrant workers who attended the weekend. Thomas said that she hopes the two groups will be encouraged to do more things together after the fellowship and spiritual strengthening the candidates experienced at the weekend. Bishop Baker called the men “the nine apostles” and asked them to “go out and bring others to Christ.”

Thomas also appreciated the symbolism of a Cursillo weekend in Spanish, since the movement was founded in Spain right after the Second World War. A handful of lay Spaniards from Mallorca realized that the world was becoming less and less Christian in spirit and in action, so they set a goal of “re-Christianizing society.” Cursillistas try to live as Christians, fulfill their personal vocations and become a sort of nucleus of quiet activists who hope to improve life where they live. Pope Paul IV said of Cursillo in May 1968: “… the church, the pope, are counting on you.” They may meet for mutual support and witnessing, but they do not form a club or organization as such.

The movement came to Waco, Texas, in 1957, and until 1961 all Cursillo weekends were in Spanish. The movement is now international in scope, but has come full-circle in the Diocese of Charleston.

A women’s Cursillo in Spanish will be held on the weekend of Jan. 22-25. Sharon Thomas can be reached at (843) 899-5741 for sponsor information and registration.