Cursillo weekends provide ‘profound encounter with Christ’

Just one weekend can change a person’s entire life.

That is what men and women who are part of Cursillo say happened to them when they attended the three-day weekends that put them on a lifelong journey in the spiritual renewal movement.

Cursillo, which means “short course” in Spanish, began in Spain in the 1940s after the end of the Spanish civil war. The motto for the movement reflects its approach: “Find a friend. Be a friend. Bring that friend to Christ.” Participants call themselves “Cursillistas.”

Andrea Marcella, from Sumter, is the lay director for Cursillo in the Diocese of Charleston. She attended her first weekend in Sumter in the spring of 1989.

“The most important thing about Cursillo is it brings you closer to Christ,” Marcella said. “Often we know Christ loves us, but we don’t actually have that personal relationship with Him that we should have. Cursillo helps build that relationship.”

Separate Cursillo weekends are held for men and women, but the formats are the same for all. The weekend begins on Thursday evening and runs through Sunday afternoon. Participants pray and attend Mass together, listen to talks by clergy and lay people, and then hold small group discussions about a variety of spiritual topics.

At the conclusion, participants embark on what is known as the “Fourth Day”, which is meant to last for the rest of their lives. The next step is to join a small group of fellow Cursillistas, who meet weekly. Each month, the small groups in a region join together for an Ultreya, Spanish for “onward.” The weekly and monthly gatherings help the men and women support each other in their Christian journeys, and carry on the spirit of the first event.

Miriam Jones, from Myrtle Beach, has been involved in Cursillo since 1996. Her husband Deacon Bob Jones was appointed spiritual advisor for the movement in South Carolina by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

Mrs. Jones recently attended an Ultreya meeting in the Myrtle Beach deanery that included testimony from a 92-year-old woman who has attended three Cursillo weekends.

“Cursillistas are a joyful group of people, and they are holy people,” Mrs. Jones said. “Coming together at the small groups and the monthly gatherings is a great opportunity to share our faith, celebrate our successes and encourage each other through struggles.”

Deacon André Guillet, director of the permanent diaconate program for the Diocese of Charleston, made his first Cursillo weekend in 1977 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and it has been a key motivator in his life ever since. He still participates in small groups and attends Ultreya meetings.

“I want to emphasize that the weekend is not a retreat — it is a profound encounter with Christ,” Deacon Guillet said. “We become brothers and sisters in Christ and part of a great community.”

To learn more about the Cursillo movement and view a schedule of upcoming events, visit www.sccatholic