Cincinnati Cursillo celebrates 50th anniversary
June 27, 2012
By Patricia McGeever
Each week throughout the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, small groups of Catholics get together and talk about their faith and how they can make God’s presence known. It’s a social gathering with a purpose: finding ways to spread the love of God.
Most of these pilgrims have experienced a life-altering encounter with Christ after making a three-day Cursillo weekend. Cursillo, (pronounced Cur-see-oh) is the Spanish word for “short course.” It is also the name of a movement in the Catholic Church through which people discover God’s love.
Tom Perazzo made his Cursillo in 1991. He describes it as dealing “with the deep love of Christ on the weekend, almost in a palpable way. It’s where people, literally, their countenance changes, where you can see a joy on their face.”
Perazzo added, “At all different points of the weekend, it’s almost as if the Holy Spirit is running around flipping switches on.”
The idea behind Cursillo is this: if each of these people returns to his or her everyday lives with a newfound respect and love of God, a seed will be planted. It blossoms when the people share their faith, bringing Christ to others. The garden grows as God’s love spreads.
It begins with the three-day experience. Before someone can make a Cursillo, he or she must be invited and have a sponsor. People who’ve already made the weekend are called Cursillista’s and they are the ones who extend the invitations to others. Men and women make the weekends separately and the weekends are held a couple of times a year at the Cursillo Center at St. Margaret Mary Parish in North College Hill, where Perazzo happens to be a parishioner. Cursillo weekends are also held at the University of Dayton.
“There’s an encounter with self. There’s an encounter with Christ. There’s an encounter with others. That’s kind of the dynamic of the weekend,” says Ken Kluener, lay director for Catholic Cursillo for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a parishioner at St. Bernard Parish in Taylor Creek. “There are 10 talks given by lay people, five talks given by clergy.”
Kluener was 23 and a young husband and father in 1966 when he made his Cursillo, a year after his father.
“I thought it was something worth exploring because I had experienced a change in my father,” he explained. “I had seen just a difference in him when he came home.”
Of his own experience he said, “I understand better what my role is in living out my Christianity as a follower of Christ.”
The experience begins with some meditation and reflection about how God is working in a person’s life. It continues with talks on topics like piety, study and action. There is reflection, Mass, confession and plenty of discussion. The third day focuses on the encounter with others and how the candidates can bring Christ to them. What’s called the “fourth day” begins during the retreat and continues once the person returns home and pursues an ongoing conversion.
Auxiliary Binzer Joseph R. Binzer is a Cursillista. He describes Cursillo as a “chance to learn more about the Catholic faith and how Christ is working in the lives of real working people.”
Bishop Binzer was 26 and a working as a CPA when he made his Cursillo weekend.
“I would say it changed my life. It changed so that my focus was on Jesus Christ each day more than it was before,” he said. “I began thinking about how Christ was part of my life.”
Cursillo de Christiandad started in Spain and arrived in Cincinnati in 1962. It celebrated 50 years in the archdiocese with a special Mass on April 21 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains. Bishop Binzer presided.
Tony Redden and Betsy Jacquez are among the some 7,000 to 8,000 people who have made a Cursillo weekend locally.
“The result of that (weekend) was heightened spiritual awareness and renewal in my life,” said Redden, a member of St. Ignatius Parish in Monfort Heights who made his Cursillo in 2008. He called the weekend “spiritually uplifting.”
“It was very disciplined in a very progressive way with the Lord. It was very Catholic oriented,” he said.
He added, “It encouraged me to share my faith and bring others to Christ. Make a friend, be a friend and bring a friend to Christ.”
Betsy Jacquez had her three-day experience in May.
“It was more about education than I thought it would be,” she said. “They do a wonderful job of sharing information about the Catholic faith and Christian faith that you need and bring it to a level of spirituality.”
She says the information is nothing new, but the way it is delivered and shared makes the difference. Each talk builds on the previous one. The “ongoing conversion” that takes place after the weekend concludes will involve her meeting with her small group discussing piety, study and action.
“Another woman from my parish was there. We are going to form a small group and try to pull someone else in,” said Jacquez who attends Holy Trinity Parish in Norwood.
There are those who arrive at the weekend skeptical and some who may even leave skeptical. But, if they follow the method Cursillo offers, they will eventually find themselves in a deeper more personal relationship with Christ.