After 40 years of Cursillo programs, the Diocese of Orange launches its first Filipino Cursillo program

By Malie Hudson     7/6/2017


The Diocese of Orange launched its first Filipino Cursillo weekend on May 11 at the Divine Word Retreat Center in Riverside.

“It was a great and fulfilling experience,” said Fernando Navarro, parishioner at St. Justin Martyr Parish in Anaheim. “I was very touched by the process. It was very well organized and I want to continue to be active.”

Navarro is among nine men who graduated from the 4-day Filipino Cursillo weekend program.

The Cursillo movement began in 1944 in Majorca, Spain under the leadership of Eduardo Bonnin and Bishop Juan Hervas. It was an effort to spiritually revive Catholics after the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939. After the first successful Cursillo weekend, the movement spread to South America and Mexico by 1955. The first English Cursillos were held in North America in 1961 and arrived in the Diocese of Orange in 1977. Since then, over 10,000 in the diocese have attended a Cursillo weekend.

Marking 40 years in the diocese, Cursillo programs offer weekends in four languages – English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Filipino. The Diocese is currently working on adding a Korean Cursillo.

Deacon Del Davis, assigned to St. Iraneus Parish in Cypress, and Father Venancio Amidar, pastor at St. Justin Martyr Parish, came up with the idea of starting a Filipino Cursillo in the Diocese over a year ago. Filipino Catholics in the Diocese of San Bernardino and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have established Cursillos for decades. Deacon Davis and Father Amidar noticed that Filipinos from their diocese were traveling to L.A. to attend Cursillo weekends and felt it was time to bring the Filipino Cursillo to Orange County.

Father Amidar wrote a letter to Bishop Kevin Vann and met with Deacon Doug Cook, Cursillo executive spiritual adviser at the Diocese, in order to establish a Filipino Cursillo. A secretariat of auxiliary members was formed soon after to begin planning their first men’s weekend. A second Filipino Cursillo weekend specifically for women is scheduled for December.

The Filipino Cursillo weekends are taught in English and Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines.

“The Cursillo is a lived weekend in Christ. It’s a lived process,” Deacon Davis explained. “We try to build Christian leaders. The process is getting Catholics more familiar with their faith and then hopefully they will be energized and filled with the Spirit to go out and evangelize and bring more people into the community of faith. It’s not like a regular retreat, it’s a process where you have to live it to understand it.”

Romy Uy, lay director for the diocese’s Filipino Cursillo and a member of the Filipino Cursillos in Christianity in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for several years, was asked to assist with forming the Filipino Cursillo in the diocese.

“Our first weekend went surprisingly well,” he said. “Everything went smoothly. Normally, the schedule for each day will run until 10 or 10:30 pm but ours ended two hours earlier.”

He makes the two-hour drive from Woodland Hills to St. Justin Martyr Parish for their monthly meetings and is committed to seeing it grow.

“Our main job is evangelization, to bring people closer to Christ. Hopefully by next year, we will expand to offer four classes total for Filipino Cursillo, two for men and two for women,” he said. “We want to recruit more people. That’s our goal.”

“I’m looking forward to growing their numbers and community in the Diocese of Orange,” said Deacon Cook. “We’ve got the ball rolling. For the other groups, we get 35 to 40 people on a weekend. I would like to grow the Filipino Cursillo so that they have similar numbers.”

All baptized Catholics who want to grow deeper in their faith are invited to join. Participants live and work together during the weekend and listen to talks from priests and deacons, as well as share in small group discussions. Topics such as the Catholic faith and the Christian approach to the world are covered.

“Part of the process is you come face to face with who you are and how Christ sees you. It’s intense because some people never go through the process of that encounter with Christ and this weekend is filled with opportunities to encounter Christ through the Blessed Sacrament or talks on how to basically become soldiers for Christ,” said Deacon Davis. “We give them a short refresher course on the Catholic faith and show them how to apply it in their life and establish a positive relationship with Christ. We show them how to take that positive relationship and extend it to others.”

Masses are celebrated every day during the weekend and confessions are made available. Priests, deacons and auxiliary members are also available to guide candidates through the weekend. Participants who have completed their weekend gather every month thereafter to connect and bond.

To register for a Filipino Cursillo weekend, visit occursillo.org.