History of Cursillo

The Origins of the Cursillo Movement

Adapted from a talk by the Rev. Alan Naylor


Beginning in Spain


RoosterThe Cursillo Movement began as a Christian renewal movement in the Roman Catholic Church in Spain around 1944. As far as we know there are no secret handshakes or passwords in Cursillo! but there are a number of Spanish words that are used over the weekend that may seem strange to you. The reason for that is simply the Spanish origins of the movement. The word “Cursillo” itself is a Spanish word which means “little course” or “short course.” It is called that because that is what the weekend is -a short course in Christianity.

Before World War II the Roman Catholic Church in Spain experienced what many other churches in many parts of the world have all experienced from time to time. It was in a state of spiritual apathy and stagnation. Just as Canadian Anglicans and any other Church throughout the world that you can think of, have experienced times of drought, so the Spanish Roman Catholic Church was suffering from what one might call spiritual anorexia – a dysfunctional religion which attempts to survive on as small a spiritual diet as possible.

To break this apathy in 1948, it was decided to organize a pilgrimage to a place called St. James of Compostella, which is a national shrine in Spain. It is a little old chapel on the rugged coast of Spain which many believe was visited by the original apostle St. James.

Now over the centuries many people have gone on pilgrimages to holy places to renew or revitalize their faith. A pilgrimage does several things:

  • it encourages a spirit away from dissatisfaction and apathy, it encourages us out of our rut
  • it encourages a spirit of moving onward, it propels us forward into new spiritual territory
  • it continues our spiritual journey , as we leave the past and travel with God towards a goal, a “promised land” as the ancient Hebrews were led from slavery in Egypt to freedom in their promised land
  • it encourages a spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood as we travel the road together towards our goals.

So in 1948 a pilgrimage was organized by the Young Men’s Catholic Action Group of Majorca and it is out of their experience that the Cursillo Movement was begun. It began simply as a group journeying and praying together, sharing their Christian lives, studying, acting together and evaluating what they had done and how God had blessed that in amazing ways.



Colorful RoosterThe pilgrimage movement developed in Spain during the 50’s and evolved into the idea of the Cursillo weekend, a short course in Christianity. It came to the United States in 1957 when the first Cursillo weekend was held in Waco, Texas, followed by weekends held in Spanish in the southwest U.S. from 1957 to 1960.

By 1960 the Cursillo Movement had been translated into English and it came to New York and then, later, to Detroit, Miami, Chicago and other major centres. By 1981 every Roman Catholic Diocese in the U.S. had conducted at least one Cursillo weekend.

At first weekends were only held for men, but somewhere in the middle of all that growth through the U.S., the first Women’s Cursillo Weekend was held. We are told that a woman named Maite de Humet was so impressed at the effect the weekend had on her husband, and so indignant that she was not permitted to attend one, that she stowed away on a Men’s Weekend, hiding behind a curtain; and so the guys lost their monopoly on Cursillo… Thank God!

Cursillo in Canada


Banner RoosterIn 1970, Cursillo entered the Anglican Church. The American Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican Church in the U.S., began holding Cursillo weekends in the Diocese of Iowa. In 1977, with the help of Roman Catholics from New York, the first Canadian Anglican Cursillo weekend was held in Toronto and they in turn helped Montreal organize their first Cursillo weekend in 1981.

In the West, Cursillo arrived in the Anglican Church here via the Episcopal dioceses in the Western United States.

In Alberta the Cursillo movement began in the Diocese of Calgary in the early 1980’s and for a while any Edmontonians who wanted to make their Cursillo had to travel to Calgary -and several did. Finally, in the fall of 1990, with help from the Anglican Diocese of Calgary and from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, a faithful and hard working core of Edmonton Anglicans put on the first Cursillo weekend in this diocese.


Since then Anglican Cursillo weekends have been held every year and literally hundreds of our fellow Anglicans have made their Cursillo right here in Edmonton. The team which plans and leads these weekends consists of people from parishes all over this diocese, and all that we do this weekend is supported by the prayers, concern and action of the vibrant Cursillo Community here and all around the world.