Father Edward Blanchett, the spiritual moderator for the diocesan Cursillo, concelebrates Mass with Bishop O'Connell.
Father Edward Blanchett, the spiritual moderator for the diocesan Cursillo, concelebrates Mass with Bishop O'Connell.
Marking a milestone of strengthening Christian life, Mass was celebrated June 10 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, for the 50th anniversary of the institution of Cursillo in the Diocese of Trenton.

PHOTO GALLERY: Cursillo 50th Anniversary Mass

Cursillo, which means “short course,” is a lay movement focused on developing lay leadership and rooted in the Holy Spirit. It has many facets including men’s and women’s retreats, small faith sharing communities, learning experiences, talks, and gatherings, called Ultreya, that bring the small communities together.

Cursillistas (those who participate in the movement and have attended the retreat) take their encounter with Christ out into the wider environment. Their guiding principles focus on the “tripod” of piety, study and action.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in his homily, commented, “Joy and evangelization. Those are our celebrating words tonight on this 50th anniversary. These are the traits of the Cursillo movement. And the traits of the Cursillo movement that you have brought to life in the Diocese of Trenton. Communion, mission, unity, charity, evangelization. May they continue to be our way of life.”

Al and Ronnie Martella have been involved in the Cursillo movement for the past 30 years. 

“A couple in our parish introduced themselves to us – we sat behind them almost every Sunday – and they approached us. They prayed for us for two years to make this weekend.” Initially Al wasn’t interested, but Ronnie was. A year later, the couple approached them again, and Al agreed to support Ronnie’s desire.

“I made the weekend first, and it just helped me to see my faith in a very different way.” said Al.

For Ronnie, the conversion wasn’t immediate. “There are people like me who need to really take time to take in everything and understand and relate to it a different way. It took me a little longer to grow into it.”

Once it took root, the Martellas said that their faith life continued to grow and inspire them to become more deeply involved in Cursillo and their parish ministries. Being a part of small faith sharing groups, kept them encouraged and more confident in sharing their personal relationship with Jesus.

Len and Linda Capobianco of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Toms River, became involved in Cursillo in the early 1980s.

“It strengthened our faith; and thank God it did because we hit some rough patches in life. Without our faith, without what we gained from Cursillo, those rough patches would have been ten times worse,” said Len.

“It also gave us community strength and support from the Cursillo community. It’s our journey with the Lord, and that journey keeps on going,.” Linda added.

Bob Morris, current assistant lay director, made his Cursillo while preparing to be married to Paddy Morris, already a cursillista.

The couple found that having that bond while preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage brought them closer together. Changing life circumstances made it so that they couldn’t always be as consistent in the movement as they would have liked. Bob explained, “Even though there were periods where we couldn’t be involved, as soon as you can come back it’s a welcoming community. Everyone welcomes you back.”

Paddy began asking about retreats and was told about Cursillo. At the conclusion of the retreat, Paddy was feeling a longing to stay. “This is what I was looking for,” she said, noting she found a loving community in place to keep her involved, participating in events and ministry. “It was satisfying what I was lacking in the world.”

Bill Grippo, in his witness, spoke much about the now-deceased Father Jay Bowden, who had been the spiritual director of Cursillo in the Diocese for most of its 50 years in Trenton. “Without Father Jay Bowden, I don’t know where the Cursillo movement would have been today.”

For more information about the Cursillo presence in the Diocese of Trenton, please see their website at: trentoncursillo.org.