GREEN: How Cursillo made it to Texas
April 25, 2023
One of the commonly known evangelization movements of our time, Cursillo, has many members living in spirit in the Archdiocese.
The founder of Cursillo, Eduardo Bonnín Aguiló, was born in 1917. At 18, Eduardo was drafted into Franco’s army — the Spanish Armed Forces that were in charge of the national defense and public order of the Spanish territory during the historical period when the Kingdom of Spain was under the control of General Francisco Franco. There he befriended many young soldiers, almost none of whom shared his deep faith in God. Eduardo needed a way to share the Good News of God’s love with his army buddies.
On Feb. 6, 1940, Pope Pius XII published a letter calling his priests to go out into the streets and bring back their lost sheep. He called for a careful study of these “faraway folks” and their environment. Eduardo thought that laypersons should be doing this. He and his friends began praying and studying. Eduardo developed their ideas into a practical method to make it as easy as possible for persons to live what is fundamental for being Christian.
The key is to live in friendship with a permanent small group of friends (group reunion). The group reunions also gather regularly to keep the small groups alive and growing. Eduardo wrote outlines for 15 talks (rollos) to be presented and discussed over three days to present the method to new friends and generate group reunions.
Having a group reunion facilitates personal conversion through encountering oneself, Christ and one’s brothers. The joyful witness of persons simply living this method together also evangelizes others, especially the faraway. On Aug. 19 to 22, 1944, the first three days were presented as a Catholic Action Cursillo (workshop).
By the mid-1950s, Eduardo’s Cursillo had spread throughout the Spanish-speaking world. In 1957, Eduardo sent the Cursillo in Spanish to St. Francis Parish in Waco, Texas, via two Spanish Airforce pilots.
In the early 1960s, the Bishop of Amarillo, John Morkovsky, got a Franciscan priest, Father Fidelis Albrecht, to begin offering Cursillos in English in San Angelo, Texas.
Cursillo quickly spread throughout the U.S. and the English-speaking world with the common greeting “De Colores,” of many colors. This led to many spin-off movements, including Walk to Emmaus, Kairos prison Cursillos, ACTS Missions, and many others, including Journey to Damascus.
In the 1990s, there was a large Walk to Emmaus community in Corpus Christi. Many Catholics attended the weekends.
Some of them wanted to bring more Catholics into this ecumenical movement. Working with Bishop Roberto Gonzales, then-bishop of Corpus Christi, and the Walk to Emmaus community, they started the Journey to Damascus movement. It has enjoyed the support of the bishop’s successors.
Journey to Damascus came to Houston in 2004 (more information at houstonjtd.com). Some 60 weekends have been held here with nearly 2,000 pilgrims. Upcoming weekends are May 4 to 7 and Oct. 19 to 22 for women, and Aug. 3 to 6 and Jan. 18 to 21, 2024, for men. Presently Journey to Damascus weekends are being held in English at Camp Lone Star Pines in Tomball. Journey to Damascus’ local president, Princess Helin, is a parishioner at St. Cyril of Alexandria.
Cursillo came to Houston in the late 1950s. There are many thousands of “Cursillistas” here.
Most Cursillo weekends are held at St. Paul Cursillo Center, located at 4000 Belk St. Several of the spin-offs, including Walk to Emmaus, also got their start here at St. Paul Cursillo Center. This year there will be four Cursillo weekends in Spanish, May 4 to 7 and Nov. 2 to 5 for women, and June 15 to 18, and Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 for men. There will be two weekends in Vietnamese, Oct. 12 to 15 for women and 19 to 22 for men.
Cursillo’s present lay director is Pedro Landaverde of San Juan de la Cruz Parish in New Caney.
Charley Green is a Houston-area Cursillista and author of the book “Living the Gospel with Common Sense.” Photo by Fred de Noyelle / Godong.