Cursillo and the Marks of Mission

The course connects Christians to their baptismal covenant and Anglicans to the Marks of Mission. Photo: Vibe Images
The course connects Christians to their baptismal covenant and Anglicans to the Marks of Mission. Photo: Vibe Images
Published October 15, 2012

Anyone interested in a crash course in living the five Marks of Mission? If yes, you might consider investigating the Canadian Anglican Cursillo Movement. Spanish for “little course,” Cursillo offers three-day learning and witness retreats that cover the basics of Christianity in all its meditative and proactive forms.

According to Vicki Henrikson, the Coal Harbour-based chair of the Canadian Anglican Cursillo Secretariat (CACS), the course “connects Christians to their baptismal covenant and Anglicans to living the Marks of Mission.”

Cursillo originated in 1944 as a Roman Catholic revival movement in wartime Spain. “It was designed to get people, men especially, to come back to church, or to reach those who had not yet begun their spiritual journeys,” Henrikson says.

In 1949, Cursillo was officially endorsed by the Spanish Roman Catholic Church, and in the 1950s began to spread throughout Spanish-speaking countries and the U.S.

Cursillo first arrived in Canada in 1963 as a French-language course in Quebec. Canadian Anglicans first signed on in Toronto in 1977. Now the Anglican movement operates under a licence of agreement with the Dallas-based national secretariat of the Roman Catholic Cursillo movement in the U.S. Users of all denominations must agree to remain true to the original method and intent of Cursillo. “The courses are offered under the authority of the bishop as part of the diocese’s pastoral plan,” says Henrikson.

Typically, she points out, a course starts on Thursday evening with a meet-and-greet. Then, over the course of three days, the course unfolds to include worship, meditation, fellowship and a series of 15 faith-strengthening talks: 10 by laity; and five by clergy.

The addresses by lay people give participants the opportunity to witness where speakers are in their faith journeys. “We hear what has happened in people’s lives that keeps them involved in mission,” says Henrikson. Talks given by clergy cover such topics as faith, grace and obstacles to grace, and piety in apostolic action.

The course teaches people how to live a faith- and grace-based life. “It sets out a rule of life so people know what to follow when they return home in terms of prayer and study,” says Henrikson.

The emphasis on apostolic action shows people how to go outside the comfort zone to bring Christ to the people and to lead reformation in the church. It asks the question: How can we bring Christ to all situations in the greater community? In Henrikson’s view, the course covers all of the Marks of Mission, from sharing the good news of the kingdom to changing unjust social structures and safeguarding creation.

Attendance is initiated by invitation from a previous participant and approved by the parish priest. “We want to be sure a person is well in body, mind and spirit before attending,” Henrikson says. Fees vary depending on whether the course is held in a church facility or a commercial retreat centre. Hendrickson’s group uses sleeping bags and folding cots in a church hall and charges a fee of $95.

In the weeks after each course, small groups of participants keep in touch with each other, and a month later, the entire group meets in fellowship in what is called ultreya-a term derived form a medieval Spanish word used by pilgrims and meaning “onward.”

“When people who became close during the course see each other again, there’s nothing like it,” says Henrikson.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, did his Cursillo in Halifax in 2007. He says he believes the Cursillo movement “is a blessing in our church. Indeed, many women and men attribute their experience in Cursillo to the kindling or rekindling of their faith.”

The Anglican Cursillo website will soon feature a power point presentation outlining the course.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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