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Strengthening faith with personal reflection, interaction with others

Bonnie Day, Vermont Lay Director of Cursillo, says it would probably take a book to catalogue and discuss the benefits she has received from the movement of the Church, which makes it possible for people to live what is fundamental to being a Christian, helps them to fulfill their personal vocation and promotes the creation of groups of Christians who change their environments by living the Gospel.

But to synopsize the benefits she has received, Day said the sense of community is paramount along with the ongoing support and encouragement of others on the same Christian journey.

She and others involved in Cursillo talk about faith, the liturgy, evangelization and how to be a better Christian.

"Cursillo provides a method of routine reflection to help me be a better Christian and Catholic," she said. "It is a method that asks, 'What aids have contributed to my spiritual growth this week (or day)? When was I most aware of Jesus during this period of reflection? What have I studied, watched, heard or read during this period that has increased my knowledge of my Church and Jesus? What have I done to bring Jesus Christ to others?'"

Cursillo is a ministry of the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in Majorca, Spain, by a group of laymen in 1944 while they were refining a technique to train pilgrimage leaders. A layman, Eduardo Bonnín, participated in the early years of the "short courses" in Majorca and helped develop the Cursillos to the point that it became an active renewal movement in the Church. In 1957, the movement had spread to North America, when the first American Cursillo took place in Waco, Texas.

A Cursillo weekend is a short, intense course in Christianity; a three-day experience of living in a Christian community; a unique, communal and deeply spiritual experience that is built on talks, activities, group dynamics and liturgy; and a chance to strengthen one's relationship with Jesus Christ.

Candidates must be Catholic, in communion with the Church and receiving the sacraments or able to do so. They must be able to understand the message and willing to commit themselves to it.

If married, the spouse must agree to attend, or must agree for his/her spouse to attend, and both need to meet with an active Cursillo member to understand the movement. Candidates are sponsored by someone who has attended a Cursillo.

The mission of the Vermont Cursillo movement is to live the method and strategy of the Cursillo Movement so that each man and woman can be enlightened and Christianized to go forth and transform their environments in the light of the Gospel and the glory of the risen Christ.

Asked how she lives this mission, Day responded: "The Cursillo Movement has a phrase 'Bloom where you are planted.' I am planted within the Diocese of Burlington, in the parish of St. Ignatius [of Loyola in] Lowell. My activities tend to be focused in that area and at work. I contribute routinely to various charities, such as the Bishop's Fund, the parish annual appeal, weekly collections at Mass and various religious charities. I volunteer for parish council and finance council when my help is needed. I pray and offer my Communion and Masses for my own conversion and that of my family. I pray for and offer my Communion and Masses for the needs of my neighbors and members of the Cursillo movements throughout the world."

She made her Cursillo in 2010 in Killington. Cursillo helps to better bring Jesus Christ to my ministry and my neighbor. "Cursillo has taught me that the best way to do this is through friendship. We are to make a friend, to be a friend and to bring that friend to Christ," said the wife and mother of four grown children. "Cursillo teaches us to look at our environments and the people in them, and then ask the question, 'What would a friend do in this situation?' Would a friend be an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a driver to provide transportation, or any of a myriad of other things a Christian friend can feel called upon to perform for a friend?"

Father Dwight Baker, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Northfield and St. Edward Church in Williamstown, has been spiritual director of Vermont Cursillo for the past year. He attends the monthly state meetings and gives spiritual guidance to the movement in Vermont.

"Cursillo is a wonderful spiritual movement within our Catholic faith that enriches and enhances one's personal relationship with Jesus Christ," he said. "When one has made their Cursillo weekend it helps bring a vibrancy to their faith, and the Cursillista [Cursillo participant] focuses on piety, study and action. This lends itself toward being more involved in one's local parish as well as bringing others to Christ."

Day, who works at Vermont Commercial Warehouse as financial operations manager/office manager, meets with her small Ultreya (post Cursillo) group to discuss her prayer life and her spiritual life. "We also talk about how that relationship with my neighbor can develop into a more Christian response," she said. "We share ideas on how can I help a neighbor who is dying, or in financial need or one who is in spiritual need. We also discuss events that have occurred that may be Jesus trying to talk to me or to open my heart to some direction or condition."

Such small groups help participants support one another in living out the faith and encourages them to invite others to make Cursillo, Father Baker said.

"This movement is, fundamentally and deeply, a lay movement," Day said.

Vermont Cursillo Weekends take place about every other year. In the past there have been as many as two sets of weekends in a year, but as the base membership has grown older there have been fewer younger members.

Usually about 15-30 people attend each weekend. Teams are usually comprised of five to eight laypersons and two ordained or vowed religious persons.

Asked what has kept Cursillo alive in Vermont, Day responded simply, "God's will."

The next Cursillo Weekend for Men will take place at St. Anne's Shrine in Isle LaMotte July 28-31; the next Cursillo Weekend for Women take place there Aug. 4-7.

For more information, visit www.vtcursillo.org.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

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