Wearing a blue logo-ed cap and a jacket to match, D.J. Schilly looked like any other guy talking with his buds about the local hockey team.
“Yeah, complaining about them,” he said, with a laugh. “We’re still guys,” joked life-long friend Derek Drury.
Guys, yes, but just as likely to be talking about their Catholic faith and its role in all aspects of their daily lives — at home, at work and at leisure — beyond an hour per week at Sunday Mass.
“Before Cursillo, I never would have sat around with a group of guys and talked about my faith,” Schilly said, adding, “That’s what Cursillo encourages us to do; it gives us the means to evangelize, really, to be an example in how we live.
“Cursillo made me realize what’s important in my life, and it’s not work and worries and money and stuff like that. It’s my family, the kids and my faith. It really centers you on what matters.”
Schilly, Drury and many others in the Archdiocese of St. Louis have experienced the Cursillo Movement, which started in 1944 and has grown into a worldwide movement. Founded in Spain by the late Eduardo Bonnín Aguiló as Cursillos de Cristiandad, cursillo is the Spanish word meaning “short course,” so Cursillo is a short course in Christianity. Cursillo has been in the archdiocese for the past 50 years.
A Cursillo is essentially a weekend retreat, with men or women gathering in faith, fellowship and prayer. A weekend starts Thursday evening and ends Sunday evening, with daily Mass, adoration, talks, meditations, sharing and prayer to re-energize the faithful and often catechize them for the first time since Confirmation.
It’s a short … and simple course about “what it means to live of life of grace and do that practically,” said Father Jason Schumer, the spiritual director for Cursillo in the archdiocese since 2012. “The movement focuses then on how to sustain that relationship with God and persevere.”
Thus, Cursillo emphasizes the “Fourth Day,” meaning daily life after a weekend gathering. “Cursillo is only as successful as the fourth day,” Father Schumer said.
To that end, Cursillo holds at least twice monthly group reunions called Ultreya to share witness about bringing Christ to daily living. Cursillistas are encouraged to stay in contact long after a weekend is over.
“Cursillo doesn’t exist just to have weekends,” said Drury, a parishioner at St. Agnes in Bloomsdale and a leader in the archdiocesan Cursillo Movement. “We have weekends so that people get together to share their faith and doing that transforms their lives.”
Schilly counts himself as transformed. He attended his first Cursillo last fall and returned to help out on the team putting on a recent men’s Cursillo weekend in late November and early December at Saint Louis University’s Manresa Center. With a capacity of 25 for a weekend, a Cursillo features a like-numbered staff of former Cursillistas working behind the scenes to organize a weekend and handle all of the details. They fill temporal needs such as meals, lodging and logistical arrangements but also spiritual needs with presentations (unchanged since the 1940s) and a 24/7 prayer presence — palanca — in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament. Palanca is the Spanish word for lever.
“Prayer is the lever to help the men or women on Cursillo to have a transformation,” Father Schumer said.
Father Schumer, Schilly and Drury have long family histories in Cursillo. Father Schumer’s parents, Jackie and Bob, made their first Cursillo in 1984. Schilly’s grandfather Lou was big in the archdiocesan movement and Derek Drury is among three Drurys on the archdiocesan Cursillo Secretariat, along with Jami and Kim Drury. In addition, Karren Tarrillion is the lay director and her husband, Bud, is the Region 4 representative to the national Cursillo organization. Region 4 includes parts of Missouri, southern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio and all of Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Through his Cursillo, Schilly learned how instrumental his grandfather, who died in 2011, had been to the movement in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
“Nobody ever told him how influential his grandpa was until he got up here,” Drury said, noting that “the chapel is named after his grandpa and that all kinds of people referenced him and talked about what he meant to them. D.J. found out, ‘man, my grandfather was something special.’”
Growing up, Schilly knew Cursillo meant a lot to his grandpa, “but I didn’t know what Cursillo was,” he said, adding that learning about his grandfather’s prominence “was really awe-inspiring, kind of overwhelming. To be honest, I probably wish I would have come when he was involved. But I feel like you come at the time you’re meant to come, and I absolutely needed to come when I came.
“It can be life changing; it was for me.”
Thursday, Feb 28 to Sunday, March 3 • Women’s weekend at Manresa Center in St. Louis
Thursday, March 14 to Sunday, March 17 • Men’s weekend at Manresa Center in St. Louis
Thursday, April 4 to Sunday, April 7 • Women’s weekend at Manresa Center in St. Louis
7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 • St. Agnes Church in Bloomsdale (Christmas/12th Night Party)
First Friday Mass and Ultreya, 7:30 p.m. at St. Joseph Church in Clayton
Second Friday of each month Ultreya, 7:15 p.m. at the DuBourg Centre in Ste. Genevieve (except Jan. 11)
For information about Cursillo in the archdiocese, visit www.natl-cursillo.org/stlouis. For in-depth study of the Cursillo Movement, visit www.natl-cursillo.org