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Men’s Cursillo #69 discovers gift from God

COLUMBIA—The Men’s Cursillo #69 retreat held at Our Lady of the Hills drew 21 men from 14 parishes for a closer encounter with God.

Cursillo weekends focus on helping Catholics become more effective Christian leaders over the course of three days, which includes numerous talks and group discussion, plus daily Mass and reconciliation, 24-hour adoration, and spiritual direction provided by pastors and deacons.

“Cursillo is truly a gift from God,” said Father John Murray, parochial vicar of Our Lady of the Hills. “Simply put, these men who made their Cursillo have had a profound experience of Jesus Christ, and they seek to bring that experience back to parish life, family members and all those they meet.”

Father John helped guide the Aug. 23-26 event, along with Father Peter Souza, pastor of Our Lady of the Hills, Deacon John DeWolfe from Holy Family Church on Hilton Head Island, and Deacon Bob Pierce from St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken.

The Cursillo #69 team, led by Patrick Roddy from Christ our King Church in Mount Pleasant, consists of 25 laymen who volunteer their time to provide a heartfelt, spiritual encounter with God.

“The whole purpose of the Cursillo movement is to bring a friend to Christ,” Roddy said.

Many of the participants spoke of their Cursillo experience as being a game-changer, humbling, eye-opening, and transforming.

“If you want more out of your faith life and are struggling in that search, Cursillo was a difference-maker and left me feeling super-charged by the Holy Spirit after the weekend,” said Mike Weinzapel, from Our Lady of the Lake in Chapin.

During the weekend, hundreds of S.C. Cursillistas prayed diligently for God’s graces for the participants.

At the end of the weekend, Roddy said, “These 21 friends are now closer to Christ and are ready to go forward to re-evangelize their families first and their friends second.”

A truly special aspect of the Cursillo was the participation of the diaconate men.  At the heart of the diaconate is their vow to the ministry of service and their primary duties outside the altar are to humbly instruct and encourage the laity, preside over worship and prayer, and always demonstrate charity to others.

“The Cursillo program is a wonderful opportunity for men to gather, without any outside distractions, to strengthen their faith and enable them to grow their spirituality within themselves, their family and their work environments,”   Deacon DeWolfe said.

The Women’s Cursillo #69 will be held Oct. 4-7 at Our Lady of the Hills Church. The next Men’s Cursillo is scheduled for Feb. 7-10, 2019.

For more information, visit If your parish does not have a Cursillo movement, you can email an inquiry to

Submitted by James V. Chin

Read more about Cursillo at


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

Sumter Cursillo holds book giveaway

Book table


Book table

SUMTER–The Sumter Cursillo Group sponsored a Catholic book give away recently to support local parishes and help encourage parishioner growth. Parishioners in line

Free books, pamphlets, media and flyers were available after Mass during the first three Sundays of Lent. Ray Blanchette, the project director, said the events were made possible by monetary and book donations of some generous people.

Over 200 books, hundreds of pamphlets as well as 500 flyers were available to those who wanted to expand the knowledge of their faith. The “Year of Faith” slogan adopted for the project was “Study your faith … share the faith.”

Father Tom Burke said the project was well received by parishioners and suggested that a short motivational talk be given at every Mass.


Cursillo helps strengthen faith and community

Middle aged woman and young woman talking

Middle aged woman and young woman talkingCHARLESTON—Men and women who join the Cursillo movement often say it is a life-changing experience, re-energizing their faith and zeal for sharing the Gospel.

Deacon Andre Guillet, spiritual director for the Cursillo movement in the Diocese of Charleston, hopes people will take part in the upcoming weekends at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia.


Cursillo is a ‘little course’ to evangelize the individual

South Carolina Cursillo, Cursillistas, Ultreya

South Carolina Cursillo, Cursillistas, UltreyaCursillo brothers and sisters appointed new leaders and discussed the authenticity of the movement at a regional meeting Sept. 26.

Held at Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg, the event drew 28 core leaders, who had the chance to hear Ceferino Augillon, the Cursillo national coordinator, talk about their future.

“Our purpose is the salvation of souls, and he talked about ways to do that by building small Christian communities,” said Pam Rice, coordinator for the Upstate school of leaders.


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.

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.

Living a Christian life, the Cursillo way



What’s the big secret about Cursillo? It’s simply that there is no secret.

“People think it’s some sort of secret group, but it’s totally the opposite,” said Jack McGovern, Cursillista and Blessed Sacrament parishioner. “Everyone is welcome.”

The emphasis of Cursillo typically is put on the three-day weekend, which is a “short course” on the faith and a spiritual renewal. The real work begins in the Fourth Day, which, said McGovern, “is the rest of your life.”

The Fourth Day is made up of weekly and monthly meetings designed to keep Cursillistas on the right track to living, sharing and growing a Christian way of life within their communities.

That, in a very small nutshell, is the Cursillo way.

A brief history may help to dispel any mysteries. Cursillo began in the 1940s when a young men’s group in Mallorca, Spain, began praying and sharing together. The Spanish Civil War had ended, and World War II was in sight. These men saw Christianity lagging and sought to bring Christ’s light back into the world. The founders of the movement see its development as heaven sent. They felt God was showing them how to bring his word to the people.

Their sharing and coming together naturally led to the first Cursillo weekend. There, participants, called leaders, learn how to work together in a community to continuously renew through word and deed their baptismal promise.

“The weekend is not going to change you,” said McGovern. “The ‘short course’ reawakens all those things you should be doing; it’s not meant for people having difficulties with their faith.”

He compared the process to a dynamic motivational workshop, from which you leave feeling inspired but in two weeks have forgotten. The process is like one long motivational workshop, and attending the weekend is just the keynote address. The Fourth Day is all the subsequent breakout sessions.

The Fourth Day is accomplished in two ways — weekly small groups and monthly Ultreya meetings.

Ultreya is simply Spanish for moving onward. The early young men’s group used the word to described their movement that went beyond a lazy spirituality into a more vibrant faith life.

The small groups and Ultreya cover the same topics — holiness, formation and evangelization. In the weekly meetings, a group of five to six men or women reflect on moments of spiritual growth. They share commitments they’ve made to spiritual aids like prayer, devotion, Mass, and inner reflection. They also focus on continual education in forming their mentality to be more Christian. The group discusses physical tools like Scripture, books, and encyclicals which they’ve used to gain spiritual strength. And then they examine how they put these tools into action during the week. They ask how they brought about change in their environments — family, work, and neighborhood, and where their attempts to change did not work out. They reflect on their plan for evangelization and how they can implement it.

The mentality of the group is how one’s own sharing may open a door for another, rather than how another’s experience will be helpful to you.

In Ultreya meetings, the small groups come together to reflect on their spiritual growth, how their mentality has changed to be more Christian, and what they did to bring about a favorable change in others and the world.

“The world’s going to change because of you and your family and me and my family,” said McGovern. “Cursillo is meant to show you a way that you can actually do it — live a Christian way of life and be an example to others.”

Through continual examination of one’s spiritual life and sharing with others who are going through the same struggles and triumphs, Cursillo is but one way to live a Christian way of life.

Founded within the Catholic Church, the Cursillo movement has developed in several other denominations, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican; there are also other ministries and groups that have formed based on Cursillo. Three years ago the different Cursillo groups in South Carolina decided a group meeting would be beneficial to all. The denominations came together for their first meeting at Immaculate Conception in Goose Creek and their second in 2000 at Holy Trinity in Orangeburg. This year St. Paul Episcopal Church in Summerville is hosting the event. It is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 29, and everyone is invited. For information, in Charleston call Jack McGovern at (843) 763-5493 or e-mail at; statewide call Gabe Timpano at (843) 651-6458.

McGovern said anyone is invited to come; they are also invited to visit a small group meeting or an Ultreya meeting without going to a weekend.

“Part of the method is showing people what it’s about,” he said.

Bishop Robert J. Baker, a Cursillista since 1998, said, “Cursillo is a positive force for spiritual renewal in the church.”

Pope John Paul II addressed the first National Italian Ultreya in Rome in 1980: “In her [the church] we are truly able to experience even now the love which will be the inexhaustible fountain of eternal joy in heaven. Here then is the synthesis of all of Christianity. This is the news that all human hearts hope for without realizing it. Therefore, dedicate yourselves more and more to being tireless apostles in your environments.”

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.

Why retreats matter

As another school year rolls in, calendars for the next nine to 10 months grow populated with events. There are activities galore, as every parent and grandparent knows. Folks not entirely acquainted with Catholic customs may be surprised to find retreats for students, teachers, school staff, and principals highlighted on these agendas. For some, retreats sound like a business venture.

Idyllic sites are often hyped for corporate retreats. Executives, financial planners, health care professionals, and others head out with their teams. The focus of their retreats is typically team building and strategic planning. These are not the rationales for the retreats found on our school and parish calendars, however.

Our retreats have spiritual and evangelical purposes. They may build morale and focus our pursuits, but their core purpose is getting participants fueled for their real reason for being. It’s all about love and service of the Lord — and making a positive difference in the world on God’s behalf. To serve those purposes, our retreats invite those present to get in touch more deeply with the spiritual and sacramental resources of our faith. They make space for us to shed some of the clutter of our lives and look more deeply within.

Schools, of course, are not the only ones sponsoring retreats and prioritizing them as annual events. Our bishop, priests, and deacons go on retreat. Members of religious communities make preached, directed, or private retreats. Our DREs and youth ministers can attend several days called Renew and Rejoice each May. Our youth and young adults use camps and centers around the state for overnight outings with a spiritual intent. Confirmation groups have day-long or overnight retreats which prepare them for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and help them take a few more steps into spiritual maturity.

In our parishes, Cursillo and Christ Renews His Parish weekends are a popular form of retreat. And while retreats lasting days or at least for one overnight are a typical model, we see many mini-retreats offered around the diocese. We have days of recollection and parish missions, holy hours, and special devotions.

Input from wise retreat directors and missionaries is very important, but equally vital is the silence which religious retreats afford. Some retreats encourage quiet at meals. Retreat guides urge participants to scuttle or at least minimize the use of electronics for a few days. The sole (and soul) purpose is to aid their journey within.

When we take students, faculty, parishioners, and religious professionals off for hours and days of retreat our intent is to imitate Christ. The gospels tell us that Jesus kept his own focus and connection with the Father by getting up early and going off “to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). The fact that this pops up so early in the gospels attests to the fact that even Jesus found respite and solitude essential. He wanted us to keep in touch with our power-source. He wanted us to retreat in order to return — strong.

Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, is the Secretary for Education and Faith Formation at the Diocese of Charleston. Email her at


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