Two Communities United in One Faith
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
February 21, 2019
ELGIN—Ninety-five Anglos and Hispanics from parishes in all corners of the Rockford Diocese gathered for an Ultreya Grande Bilingüe (Bilingual Grand Ultreya) on Feb. 9 at St. Laurence Parish, here.
The annual event is held “to maintain friendship ties” among cursillistas, people who have made Cursillio retreates in English or Spanish. 
“This is the faithful charism of the movement, because the main method of the movement is friendship,” said Marisela Rodríguez-García, lay director of the diocesan Spanish language Cursillo Movement. 
The fact that the event is bilingual “is always a holy challenge because ... it’s scary not to understand each other, not so much because of the difference in culture, but because of the language. But I think that to give a hug, you do not need to speak English or Spanish,” she said.
Although the Cursillo movement in the Spanish language started in the diocese in 1995, “the American cursillistas were the ones who served as leaders,” said Rodríguez-García, helping to bring the movement to Hispanics and later the entire diocese.
Eventually, leaders of both languages began to organize and take part in the Ultreya Grande Bilingüe, she explained.
“The Cursillo movement was founded by Eduardo Bonnín in Mallorca, Spain, in 1944, with the purpose of being able to find a way to bring the Gospel to those who are far from the life of the Church, those who are not practitioners, are atheists, agnostics or anticlerical,” said Father David Smith, speaker at the Feb. 9 ultreya. 
During the ultreya, participants had “a training workshop to encourage (cursillistas) to take the charism more seriously. The way to evangelize is through friendships, from person to person, in friendship groups,” said Father Smith who retired four months ago from the Catholic hospice ministry in the Archdiocese of Miami, Fla.
Ana Rosa González from St. Patrick in Rochelle was one of 53 Hispanic ultreya participants. She said in November 2011, “I was invited to live my weekend and since then I have not stopped. I am active and I love it! I am in love with Cursillo.”
At a Cursillo weekend, González said, people “are going to have a personal encounter with the Lord. I would not describe it in any other way. You will have a personal encounter with Jesus.”
To others Cursillo is an apostolate.
“Our apostolate ... is all our life,” said Ken Meeker, diocesan English Cursillo lay director. 
“This is how we take Christ into our small world with all the inconvenience, frustration, setbacks, etc., but also with all the love, joy, freedom, conviction, surrender, etc., that we portray in our being,” he added. 
“It is by living in grace that God’s plan becomes a reality and the actualization of the Gospel in our own existence,” he said. “This is what we share ... in the ultreya.”
One of the 42 English-speaking participants was Janet Kujawa from St. James in Belvidere.
“I like it,” she said of the gathering. “It gives you a chance to see who else is going through the movement, and meet new people and see old friends.” 
Also attending from St. James was Arlene Courtney, Kujawa’s sponsor in the Cursillo journey. 
During the time St. James was remodeling, Courtney had a conversation about Cursillo with Father Brian Geary, pastor there. She remembers him saying, “‘Arlene is ready.’ I know it was the Holy Spirit,” she added, “because He directs my life.” That was in November 2014 and she made her first Cursillo weekend shortly after.
Laura Gonzalez, a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Aurora, is involved in the Cursillo leadership as secretary and director of the school of leaders. 
What she likes best “is friendship, love, not only in the Diocese of Rockford, but also when we go to national or regional (events). We speak the love of God, the love of Christ,” she said, because at the end “Cursillo is a movement. We go (there) to have an encounter with oneself, with Christ and with new friends.”
Laura Greer started the Cursillo movement in Chicago more than 20 years ago. Despite having “a long hiatus,” she tries to participate in ultreya often. It is the “space for an encounter with the Holy Spirit,” she said, something that happens “every time I do it, because it is always different.”
The Anglo and Hispanic communities take turns every year to organize the event. There is a constant collaboration between the two of them. 
The language barrier is overcome by ensuring that at each work table there was at least one bilingual person. 
Once the language differences are solved, the cursillistas welcome with joy what brings them together and what they understand well: faith in God.