What is Cursillo?
Cursillo® is a residential weekend (usually!) event during which Christians explore their faith in all its dimensions in a prayerful and supportive environment.
But Cursillo is also a way of life, something that might begin months or years before a person’s attendance at the weekend and in which they may be involved for the rest of their life. It’s led jointly by lay and ordained Christians.
The Cursillo method is built on three fundamental principles – piety (prayer), study and action – all of which are explored in detail on the weekend and which inform our activity afterwards.
What should I expect?
Every Cursillo is built around talks and group discussions. The Eucharist is celebrated every day and there are opportunities for prayer and worship throughout. It can be a very intense experience. Don’t expect a retreat! Having said that, spaces emerge for quietness, solitude, and reflection.
The weekend begins on the Friday evening after we’ve met each other, eaten and prayed together, and finishes on Sunday evening with a communion service to which you’re welcome to invite friends and family.
There are some surprises, all of which are intended to be pleasant, but if you’re someone who would prefer to know what’s coming, ask your sponsor or contact the lay or spiritual directors for details.
Don’t worry about trying to absorb or remember everything at once. There’s a flow to the event that carries you along.
What support will I have?
Everyone who attends a Cursillo (pilgrim) has a sponsor – a friend or someone from their church who knows them well, has an idea of where they are in their spiritual journey, and has been prompted to invite them. The sponsor will pray for them before, during, and after the weekend, will help them sort out any practical issues associated with attending the weekend (transport? feeding the cats?) and will introduce them to the wider Cursillo community.
We also ask the potential pilgrim’s priest/vicar/minister for their approval. The reason for this is to make sure that there are no current circumstances that might make it inappropriate for the pilgrim to attend Cursillo at this time.
On the weekend itself there is a staff of lay and ordained volunteers who deliver the talks, lead the discussions, make sure everything runs smoothly, and, most importantly, pray. If a pilgrim finds themselves in need of spiritual support or guidance there will be opportunities to speak with a spiritual advisor.
Where does Cursillo happen?
The Cursillo weekends take place at the retreat house at Pleshey, near Chelmsford, Essex. (We previously used Bishop Woodford House in Ely until it closed in 2020.)
Our one-day events take place at churches and halls across the diocese of Ely.
What's expected from me?
We expect all pilgrims to be present for the whole of the event. (If you think this may not be possible for you, please contact the lay or spiritual director to discuss.) We ask you to free yourself as far as possible from distractions and your usual responsibilities – you might want to turn off your mobile phone, leave your laptop at home, etc.
We hope that you’ll become more involved in Cursillo after your weekend, but there are no obligations.
Where did Cursillo come from?
Cursillo began in the 1940s in Majorca as a ‘short course in Christianity’ to prepare young men for a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It crossed the Atlantic to Texas and then back again to the UK. Cursillo was gifted to the diocese of Ely by Peterborough Cursillo, and Ely #1 took place in January 1999.
How can I be sure that Cursillo is right for me?
A Cursillo is an amazing experience, but it’s important that it happens at the right time in a Christian’s life.
Some people aren’t sure about the idea but take the plunge anyway. Some hear about it and immediately know it’s the next thing for them.
If you’re not sure yet, you might prefer to attend one of our open events – indeed, some people never attend a Cursillo weekend but are happily part of the Cursillo community. Or you could talk to others about what to expect – perhaps others at your church have attended Cursillo. You’re always welcome to contact the lay and spiritual directors of Ely Cursillo to learn more.
How can I find out more?
Everybody is welcome to attend Ultreyas, group reunions, study and quiet days, and refugios. These can be a good way to get a flavour of Cursillo. Take a look at our Events page to see what’s coming up.
Talk to people who are already involved in Cursillo. You may find that some people are quite secretive about it – don’t let that put you off! It’s an attitude that was quite common in the early days of Cursillo in the UK (people didn’t want to spoil a wonderful surprise!) but we’re aiming to be more open now, so if you don’t get a satisfactory answer from one person, do try somebody else. You’re welcome to contact the lay and spiritual directors for more information too.
Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Jesus!
"To reawaken people to the calling they received in their baptism to be witnesses for Christ, to give them the stimulus to plan ways of doing this, and to provide support structures through which they can encourage each other and hold each other accountable before God for their lives as Christian witnesses."
Revd Canon Christopher Lewis, "Cursillo, a Sabbatical Study Report", 1991
Cursillo talks (rollos)
While the 'rollos' (talks) that you will hear on a Cursillo will be specific to that event, personal to the team member delivering them, and potentially even sensitive, each one is based on an outline from the Episcopal Church (USA) supplied by the British Anglican Cursillo Council (BACC). You can find those outlines on the BACC website, as follows:
Guidelines for sponsors
Supporting someone through a Cursillo as a sponsor is an undertaking of considerable responsibility and you should reflect prayerfully before you invite someone to be a pilgrim.