A Talk for the Servant Community
Diocese of Edmonton Cursillo
18 March 2005 St. Timothy’s Church, Edmonton
by the Rt. Rev. Ken Genge
This is a talk about SPONSORSHlP in our Cursillo community. We have about 45 minutes in this setting. God willing, and you all don’t rise up in rebellion, I intend to do 3 things. And, if time permits, we will have a brief question/answer/discussion to conclude.
But first here are two little “stories” or “parables”.
When I mentioned to someone that I had been assigned to give a talk on “Sponsorship,” I had to immediately make it clear that the talk was not on one of the current governance issues in our country! Sponsorship is though, about responsible and transparent invitation and support around one of the most sane renewal movements there is.
A story about a bicycle: Paul took his bicycle into the bike shop for an overhaul because he was riding back and forth to work. This ride took him over slushy, snowy, salty, pot- holed streets. Paul found out that there were some serious problems with some spokes, a wheel hub, and brake and gear wires. If he had not done the maintenance, in all likelihood he would have had a serious crash. So, even though the cost was significant, Paul paid for the repairs. Of course he still had to ride safely and sensibly according to conditions and road rules to be as safe as possible, but at least he had put the bike back into good condition. No! This talk is not about bicycle maintenance. Sponsorship is about healthy spiritual maintenance of God’s instrument, the Church.
And now here are the 3 things I plan to do:
- Reflect very briefly on the two parables just shared;
- Reflect on the difference and similarity between a noun and a verb;
- Name what I believe to be foundational guide-posts on the pilgrimage of recruitment of women and men to Cursillo Weekends.
And so to the first:
The two “parables” are experiential, and not from Scripture. It is important to see “parables” in our every-day experiences.
In the first parable, we simply focus on 4 words: responsible, transparent, invitation, and support. They are fundamental to the Cursillo sponsorship process.
Here in the second parable we highlight the following:
- bicycle = life-style;
- bike shop = Christian community;
- work = environment;
- road conditions = the way life is;
- found serious problems = self-examination;
- maintenance = personal spiritual work — prayer, corporate worship, grouping, etc;
- serious crash = results from ignoring spiritual work;
- cost = sacrifice, discipline, advice;
- ride with common sense & obedience = no magic light switch -things can happen but in God nothing can overcome the soul.
This is obviously about the sponsor first; it is also about the actual and potential of the possible candidate.
Nouns and verbs…
The second of the three parts of this talk has to do with 2 words: sponsor and sponsorship. It is helpful to make the simple distinction between “verb”and a “noun.”
Sponsorship is the noun; sponsor is the verb. This is simply a useful was to keep focused on what is happening in the sponsorship work of Cursillo. The distinction is a simple way to the important awareness of the difference between doing and being. Who we are as a pilgrim Christian and recruiter of candidates is the primary shape and impact of the “invitation” we issue —regardless of how smooth and persuasive our words.
Let’s have a little Bible study here. Please turn to the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. The verses we will use are 35 to 51 inclusive. ..John I: 35-51.
This is a Gospel story of Sponsorship! …Of being a sponsor, and what can happen to both sponsor and candidate. It is full of conversation -talk about Jesus -invitation – hesitancy- new relationships. Let’s look at it. (Go quickly through the story. Read it first if there is time; if time is short, then highlight through it, with the folks following closely in their Bibles. What happens in this Gospel examination will vary from group to group, and so should not be scripted.)
Third, the guideposts…
Finally, here is how I understand the guiding principles of sponsorship in Cursillo. I note that I have not copied Cursillo books and lists, but rather listed the guidelines as I have experienced and observed over the years, and in different Cursillo movements in Canada.
Each point is important not as it stands alone, but rather as an individual part, each part necessary to a healthy whole.
- As a “recruiter” ( would-be sponsor), be comfortable in your own faith…. not arrogant, but an intentional pilgrim on the path of faith to which you are welcoming a potential candidate.
- Look for women and men who are reasonably stable in their personal and family life.
- Look for women and men in your parish, work place, or recreational life, who are or have been in leadership roles in church, work or the larger community. And consult with your parish priest as to suggested persons.
- A sponsor is not a would-be counsellor, looking for someone to help. If in doubt about a potential candidate, consult your parish priest.
- Never reduce sponsorship to frantic scrambling to find enough warm bodies to hit a minimum number of candidates to avoid cancelling a planned weekend, Instead, pray calmly and realistically.
- Never forget that a faithful sponsor neither breaths a sigh of relief and then disappears after their candidate leaves for the weekend, nor does a faithful sponsor consider his or her relationship to the candidate to continue forever. Help them into the right -for them-grouping, and let them go free.
- Cursillo is not a secret organization! Different personality types are all represented in the family of God. An able sponsor is guided more by the potential candidate than by a “one size fits all” rigidity; and don’t let your invitation be over-related to your own experience of your weekend. There are all kinds of beautiful surprises for candidates on a Cursillo Weekend, even if your candidate is one of those who need to know the basic weekend schedule.
Relaxation in the Spirit is the key of any successful Cursillo Weekend. Of course the Leadership Team is the first key for that success. But the second key, and vital it is, is the sponsoring of Candidates. And, of course, all is in God’s loving and restoring hands.
(retired Bishop of Diocese of Edmonton)