Spiritual Advisor’s Comments

The Cursillo Movement

Diocese of Pittsburgh

November 2014

Spiritual Hibernation? It Happens!
It’s getting near that time when Northerners will basically do
one of three things: 1. Go South; 2. Stay inside; 3. Continue their
routines. There are many reasons for these reactions which leave a
sizable portion of our populace hibernating, unseen for months,
controlled by a “winter life” dictated by fear of ice, snow, cold, and
just perhaps, other drivers.

There’s a “Spiritual Hibernation” which also leaves a sizable
percentage of our Catholic populace unseen for weeks, months,
years, and even lifetimes. This is predicated by two basic fears. The
first is a fear of having to submit to the Father’s Will. The second is
just the opposite of that — the fear of rejection by others who cannot understand the joy of living in the will of God. Therefore, the action we see taken so often is hibernation — that is, the hiding from what would bring ourselves and others to a completion through a union of our humanity and the divine life which God wishes us in Jesus.

To admit that our lives are spiritual as well as human is the
first step to becoming authentic persons, that is, persons moving to a fullness in and through Jesus Christ. It is also a reason so many
people pull back from growing to their
full potential. Acceptance would mean rejection. And what
is seen, shared, known, experienced in the here-and-now
is what is maintained simply out of security.
So even as Jesus teaches us of the need tolet go of the things of this
world, we grasp firmly. As he calls us to “Come and See,” so often people retreat. At best, we come and see (and usually like what we see), but won’t hear the second part of Jesus’ expecta-tion, “Go, teach, baptize (sanctify).” It is too much for too many.

As Cursillistas having spent our time in preparation, in prayer, and study, we are called to reject what others
accept — the “Spiritual Hibernation” of our world, the safety of “fitting the mold” and security of “being one of the many.”
Too many in the world fear the Father’s will and live in a deafness in mind, heart and soul. They tragically succumb to a very real adult peer pressure. The love they know will never become the love of the Father’s will, of the life of Jesus. They will remain satisfied knowing about Jesus but never come to “know” Him.
When I overcame the fear of
rejection and accepted the Father’s will which led to the priesthood, I found that joy. I also lost “friends”, never to be seen again. Rejection is real. But to move to “Spiritual Hibernation,” is not authentic and leaves us hungry and dry.
We already possess everything needed for personal transformation of our life. The Father’s will comes with the fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s promise to be with us always. It also comes with a
powerful love called the Holy Spirit — the divine life that, when given permission, moves us into doing the works of Jesus, fulfilling the Father’s will. It is grace. 

As we move into these winter months, they are not reason to slow our cause for sainthood. Christmas nears. A gift has already been given, received, opened. Let us resolve to use the gift that can warm the heart and life of many we know, even ourselves. The fire of the Spirit can do this.

Love and prayers,
Fr. Tom Galvin
Co-Spiritual Advisor, Pittsburgh Cursillo

June 3, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,

As the New Evangelization is talked about in our parishes, in the Pittsburgh Catholic, in mailings from the diocese, and through every social media known to mankind, I want to offer you the assistance of the Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement.  I know, for some, I have to dispel past myths and erroneous statements before I can show the benefits of having Cursillo lived by some of your parishioners. A follow-up PDF file will be sent today with more understanding of Cursillo.

“Cursillo” is Spanish meaning “a short course.” Cursillo is then, a short course in Christianity.  It’s purpose is what we heard from St. Matthew’s Gospel on the Feast of the Ascension.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”  The Cursillo method is a way of life for those who seriously try to live the gospel.  It is meant to prepare and help Catholics to announce to others that “God loves them,”  (Pope Francis). This is accomplished on a Three-Day Weekend where fundamentals of our faith, spiritual formation, leader skills, and the ability to witness Jesus Christ, are all provided by laity and priests alike. Cursillistas (those who have experienced the method of Cursillo on a Three-Day Weekend), are given what is essential to fully enter into the New Evangelization.  They become leaders of others, “…recounting all your wondrous deeds.” (Ps 26:7)  Cursillo is ideal for Young Adults who wish to grow in their faith and become active members of their parish.

Cursillo’s methodology has endured the test of time — 70 years — by following a simple way of engaging others with our faith: “Make a friend. Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ.”  Yes, Bishop Zubik’s pastoral letter is solidly built upon much the same method: “Be a friend. Be a friend of Jesus. Make friends for Jesus.”  It values the “person-to-person” approach spoken of in The Joy of the Gospel p.64). 

In light of the Church’s instructions for the New Evangelization, Pittsburgh Cursillo has prepared itself to assist individuals and parishes throughout the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Critical to the success of a parish’s involvement in its evangelization efforts are: Leadership, Witnessing, and Support Systems.  Cursillo can give meaning and understanding to all of these — and then send these people back to their parish on fire for the love of God.

We’ve been asked to help parishes with the New Evangelization.  Cursillo leadership cherishes this opportunity to assist pastors and those Catholics who wish to be leaders of their parish, as well as those who after a journey away from the Church, now seek a return.  It is also addressing the specific needs of Young Adults throughout the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

There are upcoming weekends during the summer months should you be interested in sending parishioners for training.  I’ll be at Clergy Day this Wednesday and am more than willing to field any questions you may have.  Contacts and additional information to be sent today.

Joyfully in Christ,

Tom Galvin

Pittsburgh Cursillo Co-Spiritual Advisor


June 3, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,

As promised, these are additional pages to help understand the Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement.  Other priests currently involved with Cursillo and the New Evangelization are Fr. Tom Sparacino,Co-Spiritual Advisor for the diocese, and Fr. Rob Fleckenstein, who is assisting in taking Cursillo to the Young Adults.  In time, we will have other clergy and religious involved with the movement in Pittsburgh.

It helps to know our background concerning Cursillo. I have been involved in Cursillo for 30 years. Recently I was a member of the nine-member national committee which wrote the first Spiritual Advisor Manual for Cursillo in the United States. I am nearing completion of a paper for the national office which shows the link between Cursillo and the USCCB document, Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization, and Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel.  I am also the Spiritual Advisor for Cursillo Region III which includes Western New York, Eastern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and all of West Virginia.

Fr. Tom Sparacino grew up living Cursillo with his family, and has been involved in Cursillo since he was a seminarian.  Fr. Rob Fleckenstein also grew up living Cursillo with his parents and has been in Cursillo for ten years.

I pray you take the time along the way to read through this information.  It is not everything. So please do not hesitate to contact any of us for further understanding.

Joyfully in Christ,

(Fr.) Tom Galvin

Pittsburgh Cursillo Co-Spiritual Advisor



Myths concerning the Cursillo Movement and, perhaps, those who live its methodology

  1. The purpose of Cursillo is not to create an organization separated from the larger Church.

Cursillo is part of the Church meant to bring others to Jesus Christ, and in doing so, build up the Church.  The support system built into the Cursillo Movement is a sure remedy for the human condition, that is, the tendency of becoming lethargic, of giving up, of placing higher priority on worldly activities before God.  It is not, however, to remove persons from where they most frequently encounter the Body of Christ.

  1. Cursillo is a “Movement” of the Church.

Cursillo is a movement, given its charism from the Holy Spirit for the Church’s mission of   evangelization.  This movement happens throughout society, in each person’s environments, not in one given location or another. Cursillo is always responsible to the local ordinary who approves the movement’s presence within his diocese.

3.  Those who live the Cursillo method and have experienced the Three-Day Weekend are not to  abandon their parish.

It’s unfortunate, but parishes need evangelized — even those who “regularly” attend Mass on the weekends. Ninety-five percent (95%) of men and women active in Cursillo are, or have been, leaders of their parishes. The parish is one of their environments needing evangelized.


  1. Cursillistas (those who have experienced the Three-Day Weekend) are not empowered more  greatly than others for the task of the Church’s evangelization work.

Empowered? No. Entrusted? Yes. The task of evangelization, of making known the reality that God loves us, can be overwhelming. That is why those who live the Cursillo method are like recently confirmed individuals, entrusted all the more with the         responsibility of the Church’s mission.  The power received is from the Holy Spirit by virtue of our common baptism, not from anything we do as individuals or as a movement.

  1. Cursillo Three-Day Weekends are not retreats.

Sorry. That’s St. Paul of the Cross’ apostolate. The Three-Day Cursillo Weekend is an intense preparation for Catholics to become leaders of the faith for the Church. This said, these weekends are also meant to renew the faith of those who wish to return to the practice of the faith after a period of time away for one of many reasons.  The foundation of the faith and the living of the faith form the cornerstone of the weekend, which begins Thursday evening and ends Sunday evening.

  1. Cursillo has no secrets.

            We’ll give you in advance the full schedule and summation of talks if desired.  There are no surprises.  The weekend is cloistered simply and only for the sake of focus.



Papal Statements Concerning Cursillo


When Saint Pope John XXIII called for Vatican Council II to be held, Cursillo had already spread through five continents.  The windows and doors were already open and the Holy Spirit was working.  By the time the Vatican Council II implementations were beginning, the Cursillo Movement had stretched from Mallorca, Spain, to 20 countries in five continents.


Pope Paul VI recognized the value of the Cursillo Movements when he gave his blessing to its work in 1966.


“This method of Christian teaching commonly called Cursillos in Christianity extends  already over a great number of the faithful and has produced abundant fruit: Christian renewal of the family life; vitalization of parishes; faithful observance of duties in private  as well as public life.  All this has filled with the greatest satisfaction the Bishops and the            other shepherds of souls.

            “Cursillo’s de Cristiandad, that is the word, purified through experience, affirmed by its  fruits, that today travels with citizenship papers throughout the world…Christ, the  Church, the Pope, are counting on you!”


Saint Pope John Paul II also recognized the valuable gift of Cursillo:

“…the Cursillo method aims as helping to transform in a Christian way the milieus where people live and work through the involvement of ‘new men and women’ who have become such from their encounter with Christ.  This is the goal of a three-day ‘little  course’ on Christianity, in which a team of priests and lay people, supported by the  prayer and sacrifices of the movement’s other members, communicate the fundamental truths of the Christian faith in an especially ‘living’ way.  When presented in this way, the  message of Christ almost always opens participants in a cursillo to the gift of conversion  and to a deeper awareness of the Baptism they have received and of our own mission in            the Church.  They feel called to be the prophetic ‘leaven’ which is kneaded into the  dough so that the whole mass will rise (Mt 13:33), to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and the  ‘light of the world’ (Mt 5:13-14), to proclaim to everyone they meet that only in Jesus  Christ is there salvation (Acts 4:12), and that it is ‘only in the mystery of the Word  made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear’ (Gaudium et spes, n. 22).” 


The Pittsburgh Cursillo leadership is committed to the support of the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  It is for us a planned action, a pastoral plan, stemming from our own prayer in seeking direction from the Holy Spirit and then the study of our diocesan and parish needs.