A brief history of the Cursillo Movement.

Cursillo came out of the pain and horror of the Spanish Civil War which ended in 1939. Spain was a Catholic country, and in that war Catholics were fighting Catholics, and when the terrible killing ended, the country was nearly dead spiritually.

Then the Holy Spirit took charge, and a young Spanish Catholic lay group responded to a plea from Pope Pius XII to restore Christian values to their country. After prayer and discernment, these remarkable young people, decided to gather 100,000 young men and women to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella (the burial place of St James the Apostle). It was an arduous trip and they encouraged each other by saying “Ultreya”, which means “Onward”.

The Cursillo was formed during that pilgrimage, and under the leadership of Eduardo Bonnin and Juan Hervas, Bishop of Majorca, the first Cursillo was held on the island of Majorca, Spain in 1944.

It was brought to the United States by two Spanish Military Exchange Pilots who were training with the US Air Force in Texas. The first US Cursillo was held in Waco, Texas on May 25, 1957.

Growth of Cursillo Movement

It quickly spread throughout the United States, and the first English Cursillos were held in 1961. Our first Orange Diocese Cursillo was held at Blessed Sacrament parish in Westminster in May 1977 and since then some 10,000 people in our Diocese of Orange have made their weekend and become Cursillistas here. Worldwide, there are something like 6 million Cursillistas.

There are Cursillos in nearly every major city in the US, and nearly every country worldwide.

Fruits of the Cursillo Movement

Our Catholic Cursillo has been so successful in bringing people to Christ that it has found expression in other faiths: There is a Lutheran and a Methodist Cursillo, there is also a protestant Walk to Emmaus which is essentially identical. Also coming from Cursillo has been the Kairos movement, which is an interfaith Cursillo-type weekend for those in prison. Other “retreats” based on Cursillo are the Marriage Encounter, Engagement Encounter, and a retreat for those whose marriages are troubled, called Retrovaille (pronounced Retro-Vie).

What Cursillo will mean for you?

Many who have made their Cursillo retreat weekend have likened it to a personal encounter with Christ or being touched by the Holy Spirit.

Everyone experiences something different and is touched differently by the retreat weekend. The purpose of Cursillo is:

  • A Movement of the Catholic Church which, by means of a specific method, makes it possible for people to live what is fundamental for being a Christian, and to live it together.
  • It helps people discover and fulfill their personal vocations.
  • It promotes the creation of core groups of Christians who leaven their environments with the Gospel.
  • It gives pride in being a Catholic Christian.


It Begins with

A three-day experience of living Christianity — a little course (in Spanish, “Cursillo”) — in Christian community. Daily Mass, communion and visits to the Blessed Sacrament are available.

It Starts on Thursday evening and ends Sunday evening. During those three days those attending live and work together listening to talks given by priests, deacons and lay persons and perticipate in small group discussions.

The talks include topics which deal with life, the Christian ideal, the Catholic Faith and the Christian approach to the world.

It continues

With an invitation to form a small Christian support group which is joined to a larger Christ-centered community in the Diocese of Orange and around the world.

The community spirit of the weekend is continued through reunions of small groups of Christians and through Ultreyas or the gathering of the larger community.

With a method to work together to bring other men and women to know and love Christ.