Esthel Vargas was a young woman of 20 when she joined the Cursillo movement in June 1966 at St. Joseph Center in Manhattan. She is currently a parishioner of St. Peter-St. Mary in Haverstraw.
“We all changed in a dramatic way with the Cursillo,” Ms. Vargas, now 74, told CNY Aug. 18 during a picnic at the 23rd annual archdiocesan Cursillo conference, known as Ultreya de Campo.
“It was four of us,” she recalled in explaining she was among several young women who were invited to learn about the Cursillo that summer day in 1966.
She called Cardinal Dolan’s homily at the conference Mass “wonderful.”
“We are very thankful…If we do not receive the fire of the Holy Spirit, we cannot truly live.”
Also attending the gathering at the Marian Shrine in Stony Point was Jose Nuñez, 64, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes in Manhattan. Nuñez became a Cursillista, or Cursillo member, 25 years ago.
“We arrive every year to share the faith with other parishes, the Ultreya here in the Archdiocese of New York,” Nuñez said. “I appreciate this day very much, with so many parishes here. Over the 25 years, I have brought the Good News to my family, my children and my friends.”
Cardinal Dolan, speaking with CNY after the liturgy, said, “Sometimes we see the faith is a bit lifeless, and they (Cursillistas) are afire, like the Gospel today when Jesus said I have come to light a fire…And you see that flame of faith in their heart, don’t you?”
He called the Cursillo “an invitation from Jesus to those who want to deepen their faith.”
The Cursillo in Christianity (Cursillos de Cristiandad; short courses in Christianity) was founded in 1944 in Majorca, Spain, by a group of laymen led by Eduardo Bonnin, who died in 2008 at age 90. A cause has been opened for Bonnin’s beatification and canonization.
Cursillo is recognized by the Holy See and described by Pope Francis as a movement that encourages “sympathy, togetherness—the friendly testimony of dialogue between friends.” Cursillo leaders also encourage members to “pray that we might lead others to Jesus Christ by the way we live our lives—ultreya ‘onward,’ as we say in Cursillo.”
In the United States, the Cursillo movement has 12 regions, each with a secretariat and a regional coordinator. The leaders provide members with regional Cursillo de Cursillos (CDC), a three-day course about the foundational charism of Cursillo, designed to help members stay on track with the original ideas of Cursillo. The first CDC course was held in Spain in 1957.
The archdiocese’s first Cursillo in Spanish took place in 1960, followed by an English weekend for men in 1963 and one for women in 1964. Until 1961, all Cursillo weekend membership courses were conducted in Spanish. It was that year that the first English-speaking weekend was held, in San Angelo, Texas. The first one in the United States in Spanish occurred in 1957 in Waco, Texas.
Cursillos eventually took place in other countries and languages, and that continues. It remains largely a Spanish-language movement, with most members in Spain, Latin America and the United States.