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Heartland Episcopal Cursillo Group.

On creation’s fourth day, God made the sun to rule our days and the moon and the stars to rule our nights.

“Fourth Day,” however, carries a totally different meaning to Cursillistas.

A Spanish word, Cursillistas means “course participants.” It is part of the lingo of the original Cursillo ministry program launched by Spanish Roman Catholics in the 1940s.

In the decades since then, many other Christian denominations have adopted the program to deepen attendees’ faith, encourage spiritual growth, spread the word of Christ, and encourage ongoing Christian acts of love toward others.

For Episcopalians, that means living what we profess when we recite the Baptismal Covenant.

“It means that, essentially, we are going to resist evil and love all persons regardless of who they are, as we would love ourselves,” said David Grosse, a Cursillista since 2015 who attends Church of the Redeemer in Kansas City, North.

Grosse leads the Secretariat, the leadership committee that oversees the Heartland Cursillo Ministry serving the Episcopal dioceses of West Missouri and Kansas.

Though Cursillo has existed here for decades, its programming took a hit when Covid 19 interrupted our lives. The three-day weekend retreat that typically introduces Episcopalians to Cursillo has not taken place in this diocese since 2019.

Grosse and others on the Secretariat want to revive energy and enthusiasm for the ministry. One goal is to resume the annual weekend retreat. Another involves improving communication for Cursillistas, including on Facebook and through emails and the diocesan website.

It means that, essentially, we are going to resist evil and love all persons regardless of who they are, as we would love ourselves.

David Groose

Expanding “Fourth Day” activities is important as well, Grosse said.

For Cursillistas, Fourth Day involves what happens after the initial Cursillo weekend of meditation, small group discussions, worship services, music, meals and other faith-related activities end.

Fourth Day involves follow-up meetings at individual churches. It also involves larger reunion gatherings called Ultreyas that are attended by Cursillistas from many parishes. And it includes ministries that Cursillistas undertake to spread God’s love.

“Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself — those are the two great commandments,” Grosse said. “If you think about those seriously, if you love somebody, even if you are not related to them by blood, what would that inspire you to do for them? The idea is, you would try to do things that would make their life more pleasant, more meaningful. Show them that somebody cares for them.”

Many Cursillistas already are involved in ministries ranging from Altar Guild to Food Pantry volunteerism. Rather than compete with those ministries, Grosse would like to see Cursillistas put their own brand on new ministries at each parish.

For example, at Redeemer, Cursillistas have taken the lead in the Trunk or Treat program that takes place near Halloween, Grosse said. Along with giving out candy, participants dress in Biblical garb and tell brief Bible stories.

Redeemer’s Cursillo ministry also includes twice-annual visits to homebound members. Each spring, Cursillistas deliver May Day bags to the homebound that include donations from parish members. Near Christmas, they deliver holiday-related gifts contributed, again, by parish members.

The nine current members of the Secretariat plan to recruit more committee members and spread the word about benefits of the Cursillo ministry. They need volunteers from Kansas and from the southern part of the West Missouri diocese to join the effort.

Though individual attendees’ reactions to the Cursillo weekend vary, the weekend events have touched many people’s lives in beneficial ways, organizers say. Some have felt a call to ordained ministry. Others have been overwhelmed by the loving atmosphere and the knowledge that so many people, many of them strangers, are praying for them.

“This is something you will never forget,” said Raja Reed, a member of St. Mary’s in Kansas City who attended the 2019 Cursillo weekend.

Unexpected surprises, from little gifts to handwritten notes of support, helped build a joyful atmosphere that meshed well with worship activities, Reed said.

“Each part of the weekend got a little more overwhelming,” he said. “I haven’t experienced anything like it.”

Grosse hopes that by this time next year, the Heartland Cursillo Ministry will have spurred “some really great things” in the diocese.

“It all comes down to giving back,” he said. “We’ve got so much to be thankful for that we want to share that with other people. There is an innate part of every human at the very level of the soul that wants to reach out to other people. Cursillo is just a mechanism, not a magic wand, for doing that.”

Article written by Donna McGuire. Donna McGuire is a freelance journalist and author with 35 years of Missouri newspaper experience, including 28 years as a reporter and editor at The Kansas City Star. Her husband, Mark, is a retired Episcopal priest who served 16 years as rector of St. Paul’s in Lee’s Summit.

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