Cursillo celebrates 50 years in diocese with Sept. 13 events

Photo Caption: Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will join Cursillistas and their guests for a 6:30 p.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on Saturday, Sept. 13.

It’s easy to count the number of Cursillo weekends that have taken place in the Diocese of Peoria since the “short course in Christianity” was brought here in 1964. The women’s weekend that was held July 24-27 was No. 1068.

Counting the “moments closest to Christ” that people have shared with one another since Cursillo in Christianity has been active in central Illinois is another matter, but all of them will be celebrated at a 50th anniversary Mass on Saturday, Sept. 13, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will join the Cursillistas and their guests for the 6:30 p.m. liturgy.

A social and program will follow in the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center. An open house at the Spalding Renewal Center, which has been refurbished, is also planned.

The theme for the celebration, “50 Years of Moments Closest to Christ,” comes from one of the questions the members of Cursillo group reunions reflect on each week as they discuss how they are doing in the areas of piety, study and action.

“If a group has to be cut short for some reason, that’s always the go-to question — let’s just share what our close moment was,” said Maureen Alouan, who is chairing the 50th anniversary celebration with her husband, Maurice. “It’s an all-encompassing way of living your life for Christ.”

She explained that the group reunions are the small support groups that Cursillistas form after making their weekend. They are designed to counter the experience so many people have of going to a great conference, taking a lot of wonderful notes, but having no way to keep the momentum going, she said.

“Cursillo is the only program out there that has a follow-up and that encourages you to stick with that follow-up group. I think it’s what keeps a lot of people coming back,” Alouan told The Catholic Post.

Deacon John Skender, diocesan spiritual director for Cursillo, said those moments closest to Christ can be “pretty simple”: the birth of a child, a sunset “or whatever moment that you really felt the presence of God.”

Alouan said it’s easy to spot a group reunion.

“You will go to the park, any restaurant, a coffee shop and you can always pick out these little groups of people who are gathered and you can almost say, ‘I’ll bet you anything it’s a group reunion.’ People gather all over,” she said.

Bonnie Stroot, diocesan lay coordinator, credits these small groups for how vibrant Cursillo is in central Illinois and much of the good work that is being done here.

“You find that piety, study and action have such a place in your life of grace, if you want to live a life of grace, and then you get renewed every week with a group reunion, furthering your life of piety, study and action,” she said. “You’re all working toward one goal, which is heaven, of course. It just makes a group of good individuals who serve, faithfully serve.”

Stroot noted that when it came time to paint and freshen the rooms and common areas of the Spalding Renewal Center, which is connected to the Spalding Pastoral Center and used 32 weekends of the year for Cursillo, Teens Encounter Christ and retreats, she turned to the group reunions. Nineteen of them did the work, with the help of even more volunteers.
“People are just coming through,” Stroot said. “We say, ‘We need,’ and they say, ‘OK.'”

“That’s why we’re having a celebration — not to brag about us but just to give thanks to the Lord for where we are,” according to Alouan. “It’s also a time for us to stop and give thanks for all those people who came before us and sacrificed. We do stand on their shoulders and their hard work.”

Founded in Spain in 1948, Cursillo was brought to Texas in 1957. It reached the Diocese of Peoria by way of Kansas City, where it was experienced by a small group of men from Manito, including Deacon Bill Meyer and Joe Sondag.

With the help of Father Lawrence Morrissey and the permission of Bishop John B. Franz, the movement was established in the Diocese of Peoria. The first weekend for men was held in July 1964 and the first weekend for women followed in September 1965.

In the years since it has grown to include the Bloomington/Normal Cursillo community, Illinois Valley Cursillo community, Northwest Cursillo community, and Eastern Area Cursillo community. The movement was taken into the prisons of central Illinois in 1976.

While it is a Roman Catholic program run by the Diocese of Peoria, Cursillo in Christianity is open to persons of all faiths. It is estimated that more than 40,000 men and women have been sharing their “moments closest to Christ” through Cursillo since 1964.

Alouan said everyone is welcome to attend the anniversary Mass and social gathering on Sept. 13. There is no cost and reservations are not required.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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