First-ever convocation aims to revitalize
Cursillo movement in diocese

By Kenneth J. Souza

EASTON, Mass. — A first-ever Cursillo convocation will be held in the Fall River Diocese on Saturday, June 22 at Stonehill College in Easton.

This first-of-its-kind gathering will be an opportunity for people who have previously lived a Cursillo retreat weekend to rekindle that experience and for those who are curious to learn more about it, according to Claire McManus, director of the diocesan office of Faith Formation.

“We’re going to have tables set up where you can get information,” McManus told The Anchor. “You know, I want to live a Cursillo, but how do I go about doing this? They’ll be connected with somebody who will help sponsor them. The purpose behind that is to help the person so they just don’t go and there’s no connection and they forget about the experience. It’s a person who will walk with you.”

Cursillo is a three-day weekend retreat experience that includes talks, or rollos, given by priests or laypeople. The major emphasis of the weekend is to ask participants to take what they have learned back into the world, on what is known as the “fourth day.” The method stresses personal Spiritual development, as accelerated by weekly group reunions after the initial weekend.

The Cursillo, which is Spanish for “short course,” was once a great catalyst for the laity to bring into their parishes the joy and exuberance that comes from an encounter with Christ and His Holy Spirit, and it was also a powerful tool for evangelization, according to McManus.

“We’re going to have a panel discussion with some people who remained active in their parishes after they lived Cursillo,” she said. “This is part of what we’re trying to do. When the Cursillo movement was really big in the diocese, those were the people who were the backbone of our parishes. Now, some of them have gotten older and we’re trying to revitalize them. We want them to hear first-hand: ‘This is the way it was for me, now I just can’t get enough of giving back and living that fourth day.’”

The Cursillo revitalization perfectly aligns with Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha’s “Rebuilding in Faith and Hope” plan for the diocese.

“For quite some time we’ve been talking about how we can revitalize the Cursillo movement in the diocese, because years back they were very active in many of the parishes, and many of them still are,” Bishop da Cunha told The Anchor. “But there is a need to reconnect, to reawaken, to rekindle that enthusiasm and that fire that they all come away from the Cursillo with and we wanted to take advantage of the benefits that they can bring to the ministry of our diocese. In meeting with some of the leaders in the Cursillo movement, I suggested that we would hold a convocation and they all thought it was a good idea.”

“The people who are in leadership at the Holy Cross Retreat House — Jim Lane, Jim Orcutt, Brian Concannon, and (the late) Father Joe Callahan — all went to visit Bishop da Cunha,” McManus said. “(Chancellor) Kevin Kiley helped to facilitate this meeting, and both the bishop and this group wanted to revitalize Cursillo in the diocese. It had been very active back when the retreat was held at La Salette Shrine and the last lay leader of the Cursillo movement in the diocese was Deacon Frank Lucca.

“Part of the conversation was: how can we get these people who used to live Cursillo and are not active in the monthly or weekly meetings anymore? How can we get them going again? So we decided to call them together — that’s the convocation.”

As director of Faith Formation and someone who lived a Cursillo herself, or a cursillista, McManus was perfect to lead the charge. She formed a committee with the aforementioned key players and added into the mix Mary Keough-Anderson, Diane Cheevers, music ministers Mark Carey and Tim Grant, and Steve Sypett, who represents St. Basil’s Salvatorian Center in Methuen.

“A lot of the people who have lived Cursillo have lived it in different places — at La Salette, at Holy Cross Retreat House, but also up at St. Basil’s,” she said. “So we asked for a representative from St. Basil’s to come down and sit on the committee so that the word can be spread to the people up there as well.”

Initial meetings were held in November, and plans forged ahead for the upcoming June 22 convocation in the athletic center at Stonehill College, which is where the last three diocesan Lenten retreats have been held.

“We don’t want it to look like a conference,” McManus stressed. “We want it to look different, so we didn’t bring in a big keynote speaker, but we’re asking some people who have lived Cursillo to talk about how it changed their lives and how they have gone on to live their fourth day in a significant way in contribution to their parish or to their community.”

Jim Orcutt, who co-founded the well-known My Brother’s Keeper ministry in the diocese after he and his wife lived a Cursillo weekend, will open the convocation by sharing his story.

“We’re also going to give the people who attend (a chance) to kind of relive the experience of Cursillo,” McManus said. “So they’ll sit at a table and share a moment when they felt close to Christ.

“That’s a very important part of it. It helps you to stay connected to your faith by being with other people who are open about talking about how Jesus did this for them … and it just helps you in your faith journey to have like-minded members with you.”

Information tables will also be available for former cursillistas who would like to get a reunion group going, along with vendors selling items and groups such as Catholic Social Services and My Brother’s Keeper for those who might be interested in living their “fourth day” with one of the organizations.

“I should add that music is a very important part of Cursillo,” McManus said. “So if you like to sing, you’re going to do great. If you don’t, you’re going to sing anyway.”

For McManus, the wonderful thing about a Cursillo is you never know what to expect.

“A couple of years ago I sponsored my two sons-in-law, and when they were on their Cursillo, the lead singer for the Dropkick Murphys was there,” she said. “That’s the thing — you’ll meet people from all walks of life, and you never know who you’re going to meet on a Cursillo or when you go to a reunion.

“It’s very interesting because you go in there not really knowing what’s going on. You might know a little bit, but there are people there who are just like you. Until you hear their story and then you say, ‘Wow, that person has had an incredibly difficult life and look at how they’ve pulled themselves out of this and now they’re trying to deepen their faith.’ It can be very inspiring and very emotional.”

McManus said Bishop da Cunha is really hoping that the Cursillo Convocation will be the start of something important for the diocese moving forward.

“I’m looking forward to being with them on June 22 and seeing the enthusiasm of these people and to see them all make another reawakening in their faith,” the bishop said. “I think their enthusiasm for the ministry and for the apostolate will greatly help evangelize our parishes and our diocese. I’m really looking forward to a new beginning of the Cursillo movement in our diocese.”

The Cursillo Convocation will be held on Saturday, June 22 in the Ames Sports Complex at Stonehill College, 320 Washington Street in Easton, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is just $20 per person in advance or at the door and includes lunch and snacks. Registration required by June 15.

A closing Mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m. by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.

The program will also include a memorial tribute to Father Joe Callahan, C.S.C, Spiritual Director of the Holy Cross Retreat House in Easton, who went home to God on Easter Sunday.

For more information or to register, visit

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