Catholic Cursillo: A 3-day life-changing experience

September 12, 2009 

  • Origins: Spain in the 1940s. Translation: "Short course." Objective: To experience and enhance the Christian life. Weekends: The three-day Cursillo weekends are held twice a year. Men and women attend retreats on different weekends. Meetings: Following the Cursillo, participants meet weekly with small groups to share experiences and pray. Details: For information on the next Cursillo, contact John DeWolfe at 843-785-2895 or

Mike Solly of Hilton Head Island has been Catholic his entire life but always has looked for ways to do more with his faith.

A three-day Catholic spiritual weekend called Cursillo gave the retired financial and accounting executive just what he was seeking. Like many who attend Cursillo, Solly said the experience was life-changing for him, bringing him closer to God and helping him share his belief in Christ with others.

And that's just what Cursillo aims to do, according to Deacon John DeWolfe of Holy Family Catholic Church on Hilton Head, where Solly is a member.

DeWolfe said one of the objectives of Cursillo is to encourage Catholics to bring others to God. In fact, he said the theme of Cursillo is "to find a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ."

Cursillo, which means "short course" in Spanish and is pronounced "ker-see-yo," is a movement of the Roman Catholic Church that was founded in the 1940s in Spain. According to Holy Family's Web site, the proper name is Cursillo de Cristiandad, meaning "short course of Christianity."

Though it might sound like Cursillo is a crash course in Christianity, the program is geared toward people who already are Christians, Catholics in particular, who want to get closer to God. DeWolfe said the purpose of Cursillo is "to further recognize the beauty of the faith."

During a Cursillo weekend, Catholics gather to study their faith and to join other believers in fellowship. The weekend is filled with meditation, spiritual talks, group discussions and presentations -- all centered around Christianity.

"I think it's important for anybody who wants to get closer to God and experience the peace and joy that can bring," Solly said about Cursillo.

After the retreat is over, Cursillistas, or those who have experienced Cursillo, are encouraged to meet weekly with small groups.

Solly said every week members of his small group share with each other their closest moment to Christ over the past week, what they've learned about their faith over the week and what they've done to bring others close to God in that time.

Cursillistas also are encouraged to attend a Grand Ultreya reunion, where they reunite with others from the area who attended a Cursillo weekend. During this daylong reunion, Cursillistas enjoy refreshments and catch up with each other.

About 30 Cursillistas from across Beaufort County and beyond gathered Aug. 29 at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church on Hilton Head for the annual reunion.

In addition to parishioners from the four nearby Catholic churches -- Holy Family and St. Francis by the Sea on Hilton Head, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Bluffton and St. Peter's Catholic Church in Beaufort -- Cursillistas also came from as far as Savannah, Jacksonville, Fla., and Greenville, DeWolfe said.

"It's an opportunity for the whole Cursillo community to get together," he said. "It's a very, very exciting program. It re-emphasizes where we're at, where we need to go."

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