The Movement of Cursillo evolved in Spain, from where it originated, in the 1940’s. It began with a group of men dedicated to bringing the young men of the city of Majorca, Spain, to gain a better knowledge of Christ. The Cursillo was born among the renewal movements that preceded the Second Vatican Council.
The first stirrings of what would later come to be the Cursillo Movement began on the Island of Majorca during World War II. The Spanish Civil War had ended in 1939, and the years after the Civil War were a time of turmoil in the Church in Spain. Before the war, a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Santiago had been planned at Compostela. This spiritual day to the great Spanish center of pilgrimage of the Middle Ages would provide a time for young men and women of Spain to renew and dedicate their selves to apostolic work. Having been postponed several times by the interruption of the war, it was finally planned to take place in 1948.
In Spain, the Catholic Action movement was divided into 4 groups: men, women, young men, and young women. The leaders of the young men’s group in the island of Majorca were the founders of the Cursillo Movement. At the beginning, the retreats were only "Cursillos" (the word Cursillo literally means a short course) that were given by the diocesan council of the Catholic Action young men’s group. The cursillos were presented to Catholic Action group members as a way to prepare them to be effective apostles.
NM Cursillo History
The first Cursillo in the United States took place in Waco, Texas, in 1957. The key founders of the Cursillo Movement in the United States were Father Gabriel Fernandez and two aviators from Spain; Bernardo Vadell and Augustine Palomino, who worked with the U.S. Air Force. Father Gabriel traveled to Waco in 1955 from Spain, where he had completed three days of Cursillo under the direction of two of the founders of the movement, Father Juan Boss and Eduardo Bonnin. The priest and the aviators were the leaders of the first two weekends in Waco.
The aviators Vadell and Palomino were transferred to Mission, Texas, after completing the second weekend in Waco. By the end of 1957, the aviators had already given the first Cursillo in Mission. In 1958, they opened a Cursillo center in Laredo, Texas, and shortly after, the movement was introduced to Corpus Christi.
In 1959, the Cursillo extended to all parts of Texas and to Phoenix, Arizona. In August of that year the first national convention of spiritual directors was carried out, and the magazine Ultreya was published for the first time. In 1960, the growth of the Cursillo accelerated to the southwest, and for the first time Cursillo weekends were held in the eastern United States, in New York and Lorraine, Ohio.
Until 1961, all weekends were conducted in Spanish. That year, the first weekend in English was celebrated in San Angelo, Texas. Also in 1961, English speaking weekends were held in San Francisco, California; Gary, Indiana; Lansing, Michigan; and Gallup, New Mexico. By 1962, there had been twenty-five English speaking weekends.
In 1962, the Cursillo movement continued in the United States. Weekends were held in Cincinnati, Brooklyn, Saginaw, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Newark, Baltimore, Grand Rapids, Kansas City and Boston. In the west, there were 3 day weekends in Monterey, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Pueblo, and Yakima.
The movement extended quickly with the first Cursillo Center bringing the Cursillo to nearby diocese. As of 1981, almost all the 160 diocese in the United States had introduced the Cursillo. The Cursillo movement in the United States formed a national center in 1965. In this meeting a national Secretariat was organized, and a National Cursillo Office was established in Dallas, TX. The National Cursillo Center has recently moved to the Diocese of Austin, in Jarrell, TX.