After the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, there were upheavals in Spanish society and the Church. The Movement began in the early 1940s under the leadership of Eduardo Bonnín. It began when a group of young men dedicated themselves to bringing other youth of the island of Mallorca (in Spain) to come to know Christ. It developed as they prayed and worked together, sharing their thoughts about the state of the world and the effectiveness of their efforts to bring the light of Christ to it. The Spanish word “Cursillo” means “short course” or “little course.”
The main force of the young laity in the church at this time was called “Youth Catholic Action.” Everywhere in the Spanish church, men and women were seeking to find ways of “bringing the Church to life in the hearts of all people.” With God’s grace, they founded and developed a tool where a team of men and women working, praying, sharing, studying, and acting together could bring people to a closer relationship with Christ, others, and themselves.
In 1944, the first Cursillo was given and the Cursillo Movement began.
In spite of setbacks in the 1950’s,the Cursillo spread to the mainland of Spain and today is a worldwide movement with centers throughout the United States, South and Central American countries, Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Far East.
The first Cursillo held in the United States was in Waco, Texas in 1957 under the leadership of Father Gabriel Fernandez and two Spanish airmen who were training with the United States Air Force. The first English speaking weekend was in 1961 in San Angelo, Texas. The Cursillo in San Antonio was strongly promoted by Archbishop Patrick Flores who was a Cursillista himself.
Many other movements grew out of the Cursillo including the Neocatechumenal Way, Awakening retreats, Kairos prison ministry, ACTS, and others. The Cursillo method has also been adapted by the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches.
Excerpts taken from "The History of Cursillo" Biloxi MS website.
1st Cursillo, held in Cala Figuera, in the summer of 1944. (Eduardo is standing 3rd from the left.)