Cursillo: Ecclessial Movement & Local History
Cursillo is a world-wide lay movement. Members (Cursillistas) are brought into the movement through a three-day weekend called Cursillos in Christianity (a short course in Christianity). They learn how to live their "4th Day" by cultivating a spirituality based upon piety, study, and action. Cursillistas meet in small groups and community gatherings (Ultreyas) to assist each other. Cursillistas strive to be a leaven that evangelizes the environments in which they live and work.
Cursillo is officially recognized by the Holy See and is supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about Cursillo in the United States visit the National Cursillo Center.
It can be said that Cursillo began in the summer of 1944 in Cala Figuera, on the island of Mallorca (Spanish island of the Mediteranean Sea). This was in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. In that war, 832 members of the Catholic clergy, 20% percent of the nation's clergy, were brutally tortured and killed, including several bishops. Religious men and women were also tortured and killed.
This had two significant consequences. 1) Public expressions of the Catholic faith were acts of heroic courage. And 2) with the clergy diminished, the laity saw a need to be more involved in the advancement of the faith.
Eduardo Bonnín and some friends started a one-week course named Cursillo for Leaders of Pilgrims who were preparing a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St James at Compostela. Eduardo Bonnín came up with a method of day to day conversion involving piety, study, and action which would then lead to engangelization of groups and communities.
In that summer of 1944, this small group led the first Three Day Cursillo, which means a short course in Christianity. They repeated the experience many times, inviting mostly those they saw as leaders who would rebuild Catholicism in Spain. By 1949, the local Bishop officially sanctioned the groups effort.
The growth of the Cursillo Movement has been phenomenal. As early as 1955 it migrated to South America and Mexico, and from there quickly spread to twenty Spanish speaking countries. In 1961, it was introduced to the English speaking dioceses of North America.
Cursillo weekends are given in more than 60 countries, and approximately 1500 dioceses around the world. Many protestant communities have their own versions of Cursillo. Estimates state that some five million men and women are part of the Cursillo movment.
Eduardo Bonnin died in 2008 at the age of 90. In 2004, Cursillo was recognized by the Holy See. This means that the movement is seen as a fruit of the Holy Spirit with a unique charism or gift to spread the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Closer to home, in 1962 the Cursillo movment came to Cincinnati. In 1964 the movement had traveled across the river into Kentucky.
The first Cursillo held in Kentucky was in a barn at Marydale. In May of 1973 the first weekend took place in Lexington. It was held at Castlewood Park. Several of the men who had traveled to Marydale for the 3 day weekend helped the diocesan priest put it on. After this weekend a school of leaders was formed here. Father Elmer Moore devoted as much of his time as possible to help with the leaders school. They met regularly at the Ave Maria building behind St. Paul church. During this start up period over 150 people traveled north to Marydale from this area to make their Cursillo weekend.
Then the local leaders decided to hold the weekends at a some Christian Appalachian Project buildings on Herrington Lake called Cliffview. That was the area just to your right overlooking the lake just before you took the left to come up the hill to where you are right now. Many weekends were held at the "Old Cliffview" -- sometimes with 9 or more to a room, sometimes no hot water.
Cursillo retreats ended at the "Old Cliffview" in 1993. For the next few years we held weekends at various locations. One year it was held at Cathedral Domain, and then at Asbury Seminary. Today, we have the new Cliffview Retreat Center, which opened in 1997.
Currently, we try to have one men's and one women's weekend each year. With more than 30 years of history under its belt, the Catholic Diocese of Lexington Cursillo is still thriving.