Diocesan Ultreya brings Cursillistas from five regional sites to St. Mary’s Cathedral

Reaching across the aisles of St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, those who have made Cursillo around the diocese praise God during the Our Father at the Mass for the Diocesan Ultreya on Nov. 4. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Monthly gatherings with a reflection, Mass and plenty of time to socialize are a mainstay of the Cursillo experience, but there was nothing ordinary about the Diocesan Ultreya that filled St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria Nov. 4.

Believed to be the first celebration of its kind, the Ultreya drew representatives from the Northwest Area Cursillo, Bloomington/Normal Cursillo, Eastern Area Cursillo, Illinois Valley Cursillo and Peoria Cursillo communities, and included Cursillo en Español for the first time. In addition to bringing their faith and joy, the Spanish-language Cursillistas brought musicians and vocalists for the combined choir, led by Sue Bridgewater and Steve Harms.

The meditation before Mass was given by Deacon Joe and Terri LaHood of Holy Family Parish in Peoria and focused on this year’s theme, taken from John 15:16: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, joined them as the celebrant and homilist for the liturgy. Before Mass ended, he received a straw crucifix from Deacon Rick Miller, spiritual director for Cursillo for the Diocese of Peoria, as a token of appreciation for his leadership and support for the spiritual movement.


Cursillo is a Spanish term meaning “short course” and Cursillo is designed to be a short course in Christianity. Many priests, deacons, women religious and parish and school leaders have made a weekend and credit the experience for renewing their faith and energizing their ministry.

Deacon Rick Miller leads the assembly in prayer for Deacon Joe and Terri LaHood of Holy Family in Peoria before the couple reflects on John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Among them are the LaHoods, who attended Cursillo weekends in 1985. During their talk they reflected on their 45 years of marriage, their struggle to start a family, their discernment about the permanent diaconate, and how their Cursillo family supported them through it all.

“I learned that God does love me. I learned to love him and to love those around me,” Deacon Joe said. “I also learned to love myself.”

That was vital to healing the guilt and shame he felt after serving in Vietnam and helped him to reconnect with the church. As his prayer life grew, Deacon Joe said he learned to accept himself as God accepted him.

“I learned that God only makes good things and thus, we are all good,” he said. “I learned to rely more on God and less on myself.”

Placing their trust in God, the LaHoods were eventually blessed with two sons, now grown. With help from their families and Cursillo family they were able to navigate the formation process for the permanent diaconate and their developing ministries while raising Anthony and Andrew.

Deacon Joe has been involved in prison ministry for many years, while Terri has taught CCD and now serves on the RCIA team at Holy Family. She also works with the diocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate and the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation.

“We are all disciples of Our Lord and we all have talents and love to give others,” Terri said. “We have an ongoing commitment to our Christian life, a commitment of time and energy we need to work at every day. Loving God and loving others is an important part of our Christian life.”


Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, holds up the straw cross that was presented to him as a token of appreciation for his leadership and support for Cursillo. Joining in the applause is Deacon Jim Heatwole. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

In his homily, Bishop Jenky also talked about commitment, saying “the deepest meaning of any Christian outward observance should be a life that truly belongs to Jesus Christ.”

There must be no phoniness or insincerity when it comes to that, he emphasized.

“We can sometimes fool other people. We can sometimes sadly fool ourselves,” Bishop Jenky said. “But we can never fool Almighty God.”

Being a bishop, being active in Cursillo, being active in parishes, service groups or prayer groups should always mean being in Christ and being and living for God and neighbor, he said.

Deacon Miller said the Cursillistas — those who have made a Cursillo weekend — are delighted that Bishop Jenky invited them to plan a Diocesan Ultreya and appreciated the opportunity to come together.

Ultreya is a Spanish word meaning “Onward!” and is an important part of continued growth in the spiritual life after a Cursillo weekend.

“You can imagine what a positive experience you have on your Cursillo weekend. If you don’t go back and share that with other people who made that similar journey, it will fade over time,” Deacon Miller said. “It’s a form of renewal.”


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