What is the history of Cursillo?

Cursillo did not begin with the three day weekend. It started in Spain after the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939. To help restore the spiritual life of their war-ravaged country young men of Spain began to plan a great national pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James at Compostella. The purpose of the pilgrimage was to rededicate young people to the work of Christian mission.

In planning the pilgrimage workshops were established for young men to study the fundamentals of Christianity and to spiritually prepare themselves to be apostles of Christ. Due to the Second World War the pilgrimage did not take place until the summer of 1948 when some 70,000 young people under the leadership of the Pilgrim Scouts of Spain travelled to the shrine of St. James to pray for the re-conversion of Spain.

Meanwhile a new Bishop, Juan Hervas arrived in Majorca and it was with his guidance that the three days as we now know it was first held in the Monastery of San Honorato in Majorca, on January 7th to 10th, 1949. Its chief purpose was to give people the experience that those many young people had had on their pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James. Bishop Hervas gave them the title of Cursillos de Cristiandad, or Short courses in Christian living. Originally designed for the restless youth of Spain they were later expanded to include older and more mature men and eventually women.

In 1957 two Spanish airmen and a priest brought Cursillo to Waco, Texas. By 1959 Cursillo had spread throughout Texas and into Arizona in the United States. Up to 1961 all the weekends were held in Spanish. That year the first English-speaking Cursillo was held in San Angelo, Texas, and by 1962 there were 25 more English speaking weekends. In less than ten years the Cursillo Movement had been introduced in almost all the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States.

During all this time, many Anglicans were making their Cursillos as guests of their Roman Catholic. Finally in 1968 in San Francisco a joint Cursillo of Anglicans and Roman Catholics was held. From then on Cursillo became an established method of renewal and mission in the Episcopal Church – the Anglican church in the United States.

In 1972 Cursillo was introduced to the Anglican Diocese of Dallas, Texas, with modifications made to fit with the Anglican ethos. Most dioceses of the Episcopal church now have Cursillo. Cursillo also takes place in the Lutheran, Methodist and other churches.

In September 1981 a staff from Dallas, Texas, came at their own expense to put on a three day Cursillo in Wales and Gloucestershire. Over the next ten years Cursillo spread and Anglican weekends began to be held in the Dioceses of Southwell, Blackburn, Chester, Edinburgh, Southwark, Exeter, Canterbury and Coventry. In 1991 the British Anglican Cursillo Council was constituted, and all Anglican/Episcopal Cursillo movements in UK dioceses are affiliated to this body which has the responsibility for licensing and co-ordinating Cursillo activities in the UK.

With the full support of the Bishops Cursillo has continued to spread, and weekends are now held in thirty-four of the forty-three dioceses of the Church of England.

There are also Cursillo weekends in some Roman Catholic dioceses in England, and they have a National Secretariat with which we work on a co-operative basis.

Cursillos are now held in nearly all the South and Central American countries, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Australia, Japan, Korea, Ceylon and in several African countries. Participation in a Cursillo weekend makes you part of a movement which has spread throughout the Anglican, Roman Catholic and other churches as an instrument for winning the world to Christ.

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