Celebrations leading to diocese’s 1,000th Cursillo weekend
By: By Jennifer Willems
Talk to somebody who is involved in the permanent diaconate, parish ministry or spiritual renewal programs around the Diocese of Peoria and the odds are good they will credit a Cursillo for how they are serving God today.
“It’s changed people’s lives,” said Deacon John Skender, spiritual director of Cursillo in the Diocese of Peoria and the local Peoria Cursillo Community. He called it an encounter — with self, with God and with others who need the tools of piety, study and action that Cursillo offers.
Cursillistas have been making these encounters available in central Illinois since 1964 and aren’t about to stop now.
This weekend marks the beginning of a celebration leading to the 1,000th Cursillo weekend, which will be held in November at the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg. Each of the five Cursillo centers in the Diocese of Peoria is planning a gathering called an Ultreya to bring people together to share memories of their own weekends and to thank God for the many gifts that have been received through Cursillo.
The first will be held this Saturday, July 9, at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Peterstown. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will preside at a 7 p.m. Mass, which also celebrates the 25th anniversary of Illinois Valley Cursillo. A social hour and fellowship will follow the liturgy.
The Northwest Area Center, which was established in 1976, will host an Ultreya on Saturday, Oct. 29, in the Believers Together Center at Christ the King Parish in Moline. It will start at 7:30 p.m.
The gathering for the Eastern Area Cursillo Center, which began in 1988, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 5:30 p.m. It will be held at Holy Cross Church in Champaign.
Bishop Jenky will join the Peoria Cursillo Community for its Ultreya on Saturday, Dec. 3, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. Mass at 7 p.m. will be followed by a social at the Spalding Renewal Center.
The final celebratory Ultreya is planned for the next Saturday, Dec. 10, at St. Patrick’s Church of Merna in Bloomington. The Bloomington/Normal Center was established in 1975.
Cursillo en Espanol has been offered since April 2006.
Each of the centers is also being encouraged to make a spiritual bouquet for the 1,000th weekend, according to Deacon Skender. That may include pledges to pray 1,000 rosaries, spend 1,000 hours in adoration or write 1,000 notes for prisoners.
LIFTING EACH OTHER UP
“One of the great things we are celebrating is a sense of how Cursillo has helped us move our faith from our head to our heart,” said Deacon Skender, who was part of Men’s Weekend No. 33 in January 1973. “It’s the shortest journey in terms of distance, but the longest one in terms of faith.”
Cursillo is a Spanish word meaning “short course” and is designed to be a short course in Christianity. That happens through 10 lay witness talks coordinated with five talks on grace and the sacraments given by clergy.
While it is a Roman Catholic program run by the Diocese of Peoria,
Cursillo in Christianity is open to persons of all faiths, said Maureen Alouan, the diocesan lay coordinator for Peoria Cursillo. Her Cursillo weekend was in March 1982.
“We like to share what we have in common, which is our love for the Lord,” she told The Catholic Post.
What separates Cursillo from other renewal programs is that candidates are encouraged to get involved in group reunions, Alouan explained.
“In these groups we lift each other up in prayer and challenge each other to follow what we learned during the weekend,” she said. “And you become lifelong friends.”
That accountability keeps Cursillistas focused, Alouan added.
Linda Sprague, the new assistant diocesan lay coordinator, said many people are drawn to Cursillo by the witness of those who have made a weekend. Once involved, they find themselves evangelizing in ways they never thought they could and invigorating parish life.
To date, more than 40,000 men and women in central Illinois have taken part in a Cursillo weekend and Bishop Jenky has often said he wishes more people would follow their example.
“There’s such a remarkable transformation in such a short amount of time — it has to be the work of the Holy Spirit,” Alouan said about the impact Cursillo makes.
“You find yourself getting closer to God and each other,” Deacon Skender told The Post. “It has been lifesaving in many, many respects for a lot of people. It has made us better fathers. . .”
“. . . and better mothers and daughters,” Alouan added.
For more information about Cursillo in Christianity or to read its complete history in the Diocese of Peoria, visit Peoria Cursillo.