Sisters and Brothers, will you pray the prayer for the Holy Spirit with me.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire
of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created. And you shall
renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit
instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may
be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations. Through Jesus Christ, our
Good Morning. Randy Mullin asked me to be the first of three speakers on
Pre-Via de Cristo and Sponsorship. My role is to introduce the subject, to do
background, and to set the stage for the two speakers who will follow me. You
will find that just as a three day weekend is one talk in 14 or 15 parts, this
is one talk in three parts. At least, that is my expectation. We have relied on
the Holy Spirit to coordinate our parts of this talk.
John's Gospel begins by telling us that Jesus always was. So was God the
Father. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be." John 1: 1 - 3a, New American Bible.
God did create the world. The story of creation is told in Genesis, Chapters
1 and 2. Recall that after God created dry land, and again after He created
trees and plants and fruit, and again after He created the fish, birds and
animals, and even after he had created people, God looked on the world and found
it to be good.
But thereafter God did not find the world, or at least its inhabitants, to be
so good. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Cain killed Abel. The Tower of
Babel was built. There were wars and cheating. Things went downhill quickly and
rather constantly. God sought to change that by intervening repeatedly. The
flood wiped out all but Noah and his family, all faithful followers of God.
Moses received the Ten Commandments. The prophets proclaimed the people's sin
and called them back to God. The Israelites were carried into captivity
repeatedly. Sometimes the people returned to God, but sometimes they did not. If
they did, they fell away again. Finally God sent Jesus to be our Savior. But
even he was killed by the leaders and people. The apostles were persecuted. Wars
continue, as does greed, selfishness and killing. In general, we humans have
proved to be a sorry lot, frequently turning away from God. God's people, the
church, have had an ever declining role in society. We are all in need of God's
The Roman Catholic Cursillo was formed to change this general condition. A
group of men gathered in Majorca, Spain, dedicating themselves to knowing Christ
better. This followed the Spanish Civil War and World War II, a time of ferment
in the Spanish Church. Cursillo is an outgrowth of that first group, men who
came together to figure out how to increase the influence of the Church.
Without going through the whole history, let me just say that Cursillo has
spread throughout the world. It has moved beyond the Roman Catholic Church to
the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and other churches as well. We are fast
approaching a significant anniversary of the first Cursillo in the United
States, held right here in Texas. Cursillo came to Lutherans in the 1970's. We
Lutherans may call ourselves Via de Cristo or Cursillo, mostly Via de Cristo.
Name may no longer be important, except for legal purposes, but purpose and
intent are very important.
The basic purpose of Cursillo - and now Via de Cristo - is stated in one of
the old books of the Cursillo movement, The Fundamental Ideas of the Cursillo
Movement: (I quote) "The Cursillo is a movement of the Church which, with its
own method, makes it possible to live what is fundamental for being a Christian,
in order to create a nuclei of Christians who all engage in leavening their
environments with the Gospel, helping to discover and achieve their personal
vocation with respect to the same." Let me repeat part of that: "who all engage
in leavening their environments with the Gospel." The purpose of the movement
guides us in the selection of people to attend a three day weekend.
Now in the Lutheran Church we do something different. We are not a movement
in the church in a formal way. We exist apart from the formal structure of the
church. The Roman Cursillo and Methodist Walk to Emmaus are more formally within
those denominations. We Lutherans participate in the life of the church, but Via
d Cristo is outside the formal church structure. We may have the blessing of the
local Bishop or President, or we may not. The church might be supportive or
neutral toward us in some areas, but there is resistance to us in some places.
I have personally experienced the difference this makes. Cursillo came to the
Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio through work of the Diocesan Commission on
Evangelism and Renewal. Very influential priests were involved early. There was
even some financial support. Nothing like that has ever existed in the Lutheran
movement in Ohio, and one of the ELCA Bishops has been opposed to Via de Cristo
to the point of actively discouraging clergy from participating. It is much
harder to get clergy to participate in that atmosphere. There is less
receptivity to the movement.
The quotation I read a few moments ago tells us some important things. First,
Via de Cristo is intended to help Christians learn and live what is fundamental
to being a Christian. Second, Via de Cristo is intended to help those same
Christians discover and live out their personal vocation, their calling to a
Christian life. We are to be people who know God, who know God's love and grace,
and who live our lives based upon our relationship with God. We are to be people
who come to understand that we have a mission to share God and His love with
others. In a very real sense this is a repetition of God's call to Abraham: "I
will bless you ... so that you will be a blessing." Genesis 12:2, again from the
New American Bible.
Notice that all of this is action-oriented! The emphasis is on "living" the
Christian life, on "leavening" our environments, on "discovering and achieving"
our Christian calling. We are in the Church, not apart from it. Our method makes
us distinctive. Importantly, we are not initially an evangelism program. It is
NOT one of our purposes to covert people to Christianity on a three day weekend.
Instead, on the three day weekend it is our purpose to take already committed
Christians and help them find fullness of faith and an understanding of their
We all should know that Via de Cristo has three parts - Pre-Via de Cristo,
the three day weekend, and Post-Via de Cristo. For many of us, the three day
weekend is the center of Via de Cristo. We love to serve on teams. Weekends are
invigorating, inspiring. We may even be able to get a friend or two to attend.
We may come home tired, but we've been back to the mountain top. Well, folks,
we've missed the point. The true focus of Via de Cristo is the Fourth Day! The
weekend is just the beginning. The weekend is preparation, a start. Life is
lived in the Fourth Day. Life is lived by living our Christian calling.
Every Secretariat needs to address this carefully. Every Ultreya must address
this as well. The three day weekend is a catalyst. It inspires and empowers
Christians to understand and live out their calling - to be witnesses for Jesus
Christ in their Fourth Day. Witness during the Fourth Day is the aim and the
focus of all of Cursillo. That may mean that our friend may not be well-suited
to attend a Three Day Weekend! Thus proper selection of candidates, pilgrims,
guests - whatever we call those who attend the weekend - is very important.
Therefore, Pre-Via de Cristo is crucial to enable Via de Cristo to carry out its
Much of selection of candidates is covered in the next part of this talk, but
I am charged with introducing the topic. Turning again to one of the basic books
in the Cursillo movement, The Leaders Manual, we find good direction. Someone
selected to attend a three day weekend must be a baptized Christian already
active in the life of the Church, a person who is reasonably stable and mature,
one who has a desire for God's love, and in whom a fire can be set to create a
zeal to do God's work in the Church and in the world. Let me repeat part of
that: "in whom a fire can be set to create a zeal to do God's work in the Church
and the world."
Reference should be made to the Leaders Rollo. In that Rollo, those attending
are told: "All of you are here today because someone thought that you were a
Leader." But - I have experienced inappropriate people attending a three day
weekend. That tells me that I should not be confident that all our sponsors are
appropriately careful in the selection of those to invite to a weekend. I have
experienced an unbaptized person attending a weekend, and also one whose mental
condition caused serious interruptions. These were conditions which should have
been known by the Sponsor or the Pastor. Neither should have attended a three
day weekend just then.
The founders of the Cursillo movement envisioned real penetration of their
environments by those who attend a three day weekend, penetration aimed at
changing those environments. I think that the Via de Cristo group in the Tampa,
Florida, area had it right. I think it is Tampa, anyway. They determined to
penetrate the legal and justice systems. They befriended lawyers, police
officers, judges and more. Some were found to be natural leaders in their
respective environments. Make a friend, be a friend, bring the friend to Christ.
That was the game plan, and that is what was done. Then the natural leaders, now
committed Christians active in churches, were invited to attend a three day
weekend. There they discovered the real love God had for them plus the need to
evangelize their own environments. I am told that there are some significant
differences in the legal and justice systems in the area.
You will recognize that what I just told you is exactly what is taught on the
three day weekend! We are told to study our environments and determine who are
the natural leaders. Those are the people to befriend and bring to Christ. Those
are the people who, once committed to Christ and active in a church, are ideal
people to ask to attend a three day weekend. W do not invite them to a weekend
to convert them to Christianity.
When is the last time you studied your environments in this way? When is the
last time you invited someone to attend a three day weekend in this fashion? Let
me not confuse the issue. One of our environments is the church we attend. I am
told that many pastors consider it necessary to assume that a congregation to
which they have been called probably needs evangelism. You can assume that
members of your church need evangelization. But that should not be your only, or
even major, point of study.
How about your work place? Or how about the school your children or
grandchildren attend? Or the medical community? Or? It is recommended that local
Secretariats and Ultreyas study environments. Which environments should be
penetrated - first, second, third? That should be a group decision. Of course,
we each penetrate our own environments - that is clearly understood. But the
failure to plan on a larger scale is a major failing of the movement as a whole.
There is an important qualification to this. Do not sent a person to a three
day weekend without the mutually agreed upon expectation that he or she will
become part of a reunion group. One person, working alone in a hostile
environment, is open prey for Satan. There is significant need for support. The
Via de Cristo method includes Reunion Groups and Ultreyas. Both are necessary
for success. Thus, it is best if several leaders from an environment can attend
a weekend at the same time, or at least in close proximity in time. They will
then form the nucleus necessary to transform that environment. They can group
together for mutual support and planning. Or they can group with others. Those
groups can then be supported by the Ultreya. Remember - the purpose of Via de
Cristo is to leaven environments. This means our purpose is to bring Christ into
those environments. Then they will be transformed.
Thus, the first group of people accepted to attend a three day weekend should
be those who are the natural leaders of the environments which are to be
penetrated and evangelized - once they have been brought to Christ. If there are
spaces left over other members of various churches can be accepted. The first
come, first accepted method of proceeding is wrong. The weekend is designed to
equip and energize those who are to live their Fourth Day penetrating
environments. Facilitate the plan.
Randy also asked me to consider the appropriate preparation of a candidate
prior to a weekend. The first and most absolute requirement is to be assured
that the person under consideration is a Christian, and is appropriate in the
other ways which will soon be explained. If the person is married, talk to the
couple together. And keep your movement's requirements in mind. Does the husband
have to attend first? Must both be committed to attend?
I think it is best to tell the candidate a rather complete summary of a three
day weekend. The candidate needs to know that each day begins and ends in
worship; that communion is available Friday, Saturday and Sunday; that there
will be a series of talks, some presented by lay people and some by clergy; that
the talks are a review of the essentials of Christianity, but packaged in an
invigorating way; that each talk is followed by discussion around a table; that
food and all other essentials are provided; and that Via de Cristo provides a
method for living one's faith which includes weekly grouping and monthly
Ultreya. Invite the candidate to Ultreya. Invite the candidate to group - after
asking your group about it first. I think that each candidate needs to know that
the weekend is isolated from the world and that a phone is not available except
in an emergency. Ask about their questions. Always be completely honest. Answer
each question fully. I do not volunteer things which are some of the neat
surprises - palanca and serenades, for instance - but I would answer honestly if
asked. It is important to have an honest relationship with the candidate as a
basis for the Fourth Day. Tell them about sleeping arrangements, and about
strange or unique aspects of the building or buildings where the weekend will be
held. I would tell a candidate that our building has three floors and a
basement, and that all levels are used. I would tell him or her that it is a
converted school. Well, you get the picture. Again, honesty is essential, and
there is nothing that should be withheld if the right question is asked.
Part of preparation is to inform the team of any special needs of the
candidate, whether dietary or other.
If Pre-Via de Cristo is properly handled, the three day weekend is
facilitated and can be all it is intended to be. Then the emphasis can be on the
God loves you - and so do I. Ultreya!
THE SECOND PHASE OF THE PRE-CURSILLO
(The first phase being the STUDY of the environments)
Two opening comments: First, I'd like to thank Randy Mullin for his input and his suggestions about this Forum. The list of issues and questions he offered were a lot of help in putting this talk together. I will try to stay focused on the basics of the method rather than the local mechanics of its implementation, but I know there will be instances where I will not be completely successful. Second, I suspect that this is not the group which needs to hear this talk. If you have enough interest in Via de Cristo to travel all the way to a national gathering, you probably understand the movement and its method well enough to give this talk yourselves. So, to start this rollo, let's all turn in our minds to page 42 and pray together the prayer of invocation ...
Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
The hardest thing for most people to grasp, I think, is the fact that the 3 Days is not the center of this movement just because it's in the middle: Pre-Cursillo, 3 Days, Post-Cursillo. There is a greater purpose to the Movement than just providing people with wonderful experiences. It would probably be enough if the purpose were strictly limited to evangelizing our environments through the presentation of 3 Day experiences with Christ. We certainly know that this does happen. However, that is NOT the purpose of the Movement. The purpose, as has already been stated, is to evangelize our environments by identifying those individuals in the world who can be the backbone of a Christian society and then inspiring those individuals to action.
It is this last sentence that today's Forum is meant to address. Who are
those individuals, how do we identify them, and how do we get them to attend a
Via de Cristo? There are at least three steps to identifying these individuals.
Our first priority should be on those who should attend a weekend. Then
we can consider those who can attend. And finally, we need to address
those who should NOT attend.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND A WEEKEND?
Some brochures I have seen answer that question this way: You! If you are
a baptized member of a Christian Church. Unfortunately, that is a bit
broad, even if it's followed with caveats such as: if you believe in Jesus
Christ as your Lord and Savior; if you seek to continue growing in faith; if you
wish to strengthen your relationship with Christ and the people around you.
The Leaders Manual tells us that "those who are already functioning
as the vertebrae of their environments should go. The criterion for selection
will always be the effectiveness each one will have as a vertebra in
Christianity." Now sometimes that statement seems kind of silly. We know that
the three legs of the tripod are Piety, Study and Action. We stress this
triumvirate throughout the Fourth Day. So if a person is already functioning as
a part of the backbone of the environment, applying themselves to acts of piety,
to renewal of their minds thru' study and to apostolic action, why encourage
them to go to a Via de Cristo?
The operative word here is functioning. Are they truly functioning
as a part of Christ's backbone? Or are they just so busy being a worker for
Christ that it appears they are part of the backbone when really
they're a foot or a hand. Feet and hands, knees and elbows, legs and shoulders -
they're all part of the body of Christ, but they can all stand a massage once in
a while. On the other hand, a butt is a butt, and all the massage in the world
isn't going to make it into much of anything more than a seat cushion. So
obviously we should be looking for the workers who, with a little encouragement
and direction can be motivated to greater action.
Of course, in some cases you will identify someone whom God doesn't need to
call to the weekend experience. There are certainly people out there whose
piety, study and action already surpass our own. These people should be invited
into our small group reunions as resources of strength and leadership. The green
cards aren't written in some language only Cursillistas can read.
But how do we identify the functioning workers, the natural leaders referred
to in the Leaders rollo? Again, the Leaders Manual indicates
that we should look for those men and women who have strength of character and
self-control, who are able to make their own decisions, who are motivated and
responsible. They should be self-starters, movers and shakers, people who are
concerned about God's creation and what we are doing with it (or to it). In
other words, those whom you naturally turn to for advice or leadership roles
within your congregation or community, those whom you would recommend for a
pastoral call committee, those whom you respect for their actions and not just
WHO CAN ATTEND A WEEKEND?
Bookish approaches sometimes lead to bookish results, tightly bound, limited
in scope, hard to understand, often ignored. So in addition to those who
should attend a weekend, we look for those who
can attend. Most people in our environments can be considered as
participants on a weekend. Many of
us may have fallen into this category more than the first one
when we were invited to make our own weekends. If we work too hard at staying
only with should go category, eventually we risk making judgments
rather than decisions, relying too much on ourselves and too little on the Holy
But, from the Movement's standpoint, we need to guard
against having a majority of the participants come from the can go
group. It would certainly be easier to shrug off our responsibility to study the
environments, to identify the vertebrae and to pray for God's guidance and just
invite everyone we meet to make a weekend. And we do have responsibility to act
as God's messengers if we are going to allow Him to be the caller and not we
ourselves. God didn't promise us a rose garden when He called us to our weekend.
Christ told His disciples that He was sending them out among wolves. The way
wouldn't be easy. He tells us the same thing over and over. "It won't be easy to
do what you have to do, but I need your help."
WHO SHOULD NOT ATTEND A WEEKEND?
If you ever find yourself saying something like "this person needs a Via de
Cristo experience," then you should stop and reconsider. People shouldn't be
invited to make a weekend because they need it, but because
God needs it. No Cursillo method weekend is designed to be or is
capable of being a fixit
experience. People with emotional or spiritual problems should not be invited to
make a weekend. Very few of us are professionals at dealing with psychological
or emotional problems, and most such problems cannot be dealt with adequately in
the space of three days. Not only do we risk doing harm to the individual, but
we place all the others at risk as well. If a participant seeks out an S/D for
confession or consultation more than once during a weekend, that S/D is less
available to other participants.
We've looked at who potential participants are and how to identify them, now
let's consider how we get them to say yes to the experience. We all know that
secrecy doesn't work. Furthermore, using the word
surprises rather than secrets doesn't seem to help much. So
why worry about either. One of the most effective approaches I have seen is the
simple, direct, straight-forward get 'em to small group and ultreya and get
'em curious approach. Once you are comfortable that you and God are in
agreement on who you should approach, you should begin preparing them for the
experience. For a few, preparation will simply be suggesting that they make a
weekend. Their own natural curiosity and courage will move them to say yes. But
for the majority, you will have to work a little harder.
Begin by explaining the fourth day. Explain your own relationship with Christ
and how it has been fed through your fourth day practice of small group
reunions, of applying yourself to your Piety, Study and Action. Go ahead and be
excited about it; not about your weekend but about your 4th Day. Remember always
that getting people to attend a weekend isn't the objective. Getting them to
make a commitment to spread the Good News is the objective. If you can get them
committed and excited about evangelizing their environments without going to a
weekend, you have still accomplished the purpose haven't you? In most cases,
however, once you have them excited about living their Christianity more fully,
they will be much more open to a weekend experience that will help them learn
how to do it.
When you talk about your weekend experience is there anything you should
not reveal? I think not. When asked what a Via de Cristo is like, I answer
by starting with the silent retreat and walking through the entire weekend.
Granted, I take some pretty big steps sometimes, but I don't say "Oh look.
There's a puddle I have to step over." I just step over it and go on without
mentioning it. If pressed about secrets
or surprises, I tell about them. I'll say something like "There are
times during the weekend when you get mail, notes from people supporting the
weekend." If asked for details, I'll tell them about the healing service which
is part of Saturday's Eucharist. I've never found it necessary to mention the
Saturday night party (staff and participants only) or the Sunday morning wakeup.
Although with wakeup there are some instances when I wish I had. I readily tell
people that the weekend ends with a closing worship service. I don't remember
anyone ever asking how many people would be at that service.
SHOULD HUSBANDS GO FIRST?
Here in North Texas we present coed weekends. That doesn't mean
couples. In my experience, most couples choose to go to separate weekends, which
is probably the way it should be. If the spouse would tend to be a distraction,
or a hindrance to the developing relationship between Christ and the
participant, then the spouses should attend separate weekends. The Leaders
Manual says that if one spouse is unwilling or unable to attend, then
neither should attend. This seems rather harsh and chauvinistic, but the intent
is to prevent the weekend from becoming a problem for the marriage relationship.
The manual goes on to say that if a couple is properly prepared by the sponsor,
who goes first doesn't matter. I think this must be right, because the only
answer I have heard in response to this question is something to the effect that
men are more likely to be turned off to the experience if the woman comes home
all bubbly and excited about it and filled with a new spirituality. That's
probably true; but if the couple is properly prepared ahead of time, the husband
has already made the decision to attend and won't be surprised or turned off by
his wife's reactions. Regardless of what the book says, for most of us the
answer becomes one of personal conscience.
But, if one spouse doesn't want to attend or isn't eligible for some reason,
then you owe it to both of them to do more. The purpose and method of the
Movement should be fully explained. Examples should accompany an explanation of
the 3 Day experience and its probable effects on the participant. Involvement of
the participant in 4th Day activities of group reunion and ultreya should be
explained. Too many events in the church tend to separate husbands and wives
already - WELCA, choirs, Stephen Ministry, men's Bible study/prayer groups,
Circles - without Via de Cristo being another unexpected and unwelcome event
that one spouse does which leaves the other home alone.
As registrar for the local movement, I received a registration form for our
most recent Via de Cristo just this past weekend with the following comment from
the sponsor: She has been the spiritual leader in her family until recent
months. Her husband has taken over that role and has joined a church. She has
not yet become a member of it, and I feel she is struggling in some way with
letting go of her leadership role.
My first reaction was one of concern. Would the impact of a Via de Cristo
weekend add additional problems to this situation? When I called the sponsor to
discuss this possibility, I found that the church which the husband had just
joined was so strict that it required you be baptized in that congregation even
though you may have already been baptized in another congregation of the same
denomination. The registrant was a Lutheran. Talk about difficulties! I was
pleased beyond words, however, when I heard that the sponsor had already
addressed these issues. She had talked with both the husband and the wife. She
had explained the weekend and the fourth day. She had even described to the
husband (a coworker) the effect the weekend would have on his wife. While he is
not likely to attend, he was excited about her attending. He knew what expect
and was prepared for it. As a result, he should be prepared to support
and encourage his wife in her fourth day.
DO I HAVE TO BE IN A GROUP REUNION OR LEADERS SCHOOL IN ORDER TO SPONSOR SOMEONE?
Well, I don't know about Leaders School, but I don't think one can deal with
sponsorship from the outside. Sponsoring a friend to a weekend without being in
a group reunion reminds me of the definition of diplomacy that hung on my dad's
office wall: "Diplomacy is being able to tell someone to go to hell in such a
way that they actually look forward to the trip." When we stop to consider that
the only reason for sending someone to the 3 Days is for the 4th Day, then
sending someone to a weekend without being active in the 4th Day ourselves is
like saying, "I can tell you how to get there in such a way that you will want
to go, but I won't go there myself." Pat will talk about that in greater detail,
IS THE PARTICIPANT REQUIRED TO HAVE CLERGY APPROVAL?
Yes. For at least two reasons. First, we owe pastors the respect of making sure they know what their parishioners are doing for spiritual growth. Second, the pastor may know something you don't which would preclude participation at this time.
THE JOY OF SPONSORSHIP
My name is Pat Dever. I worship at Triumphant Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas. I attended Texas Lutheran Via de Cristo Weekend #1, in January, 1986, and sat at the Table of St. Mary.
The name of this portion of the talk is "The Joy of Sponsorship".
I arrived at Camp Lutherhill on a dark, cold, drizzly Thursday night in January. After a two and a half hour drive to an unfamiliar place, I arrived to find the gravel and clay camp road muddy and slippery.
I entered the dining hall in a foul mood to face a sea of strangers and I wanted to yell "Here I am; what do you want?" I wondered why I was there and wished I wasn't.
It was Saturday when I began to "get it", but at the closing I gave a moving, heartfelt and sincere testimony; I knew without doubt that God wanted me on that weekend.
But I didn't have a sponsor. This was the first Texas Lutheran weekend. The brochure mailed to our church sounded like a leadership training event. The Pastor brought it to council who agreed to send the Pastor, the incoming president and vice president, the leaders of the church, to be trained. The Pastor and the vice president went to the men's weekend (and, of course, wouldn't tell me anything) and I went to the women's weekend.
The team was mostly from Iowa with others from the local Episcopal and Catholic Cursillo communities rounding out the team.
None of the palanca was from anyone I knew; my Pastor did come for the closing, but I had to drive myself home, and there was no reunion group to join.
This sounds like a case study of how not to send someone on a weekend.
Yet here I stand before you ten years later giving this presentation. Perhaps a better title would be, "I had no sponsor, but now I are one; what have I learned?"
I have learned that it is truly the Holy Spirit who sends us on weekends and it is the Holy Spirit who chooses us to serve him as sponsors.
I have learned that it is a privilege to be a sponsor and there is great joy in sponsorship. I have learned that there is great responsibility, so much so that I have intentionally not served on team so that I could be a more effective sponsor.
When we look at the big picture I think we see that the primary role of the sponsor is support of the New Cursillista in every way. Fred and Dan have covered many of the ways this support is given in selection and preparation of a New Cursillista before the weekend. My segment deals with the weekend and what follows.
It is perhaps at this time that the New Cursillista begins to experience a peer as servant. I have found that it is sometimes difficult for people to accept or understand that I, as sponsor, want to serve
them by providing transportation and assisting with family needs in their absence. People are used to being self-reliant, seeing to their own needs, so we approach the subject sensitive to the fact that we do not appear to want to be in control, but of assistance.
I usually explain that this is part of my responsibility as sponsor. The New Cursillista usually acquiesces thinking that they are doing me a favor by letting me help them.
We should ascertain what needs the family may have, but I think we intersect with them in a way appropriate to their needs and not as an intrusion based on our personal agenda, or because the sponsor guide says we should. Whether we personally drive the Candidate to the site, or arrange for transportation; whether we cook meals or take care of children, or just make sure things are going OK, the most important thing we do is lift up the New Cursillista and his or her family in prayer. In fact, prayer is the most important element of this whole undertaking from beginning to end. It is through prayer that we may be guided to a prospective Candidate to sponsor. It is prayer that envelops the weekend and supports the team as well as the Pilgrims.
In addition to prayer, which is unseen by the New Cursillista, are the actions of the sponsor which are seen:
1. Palanca--Because my weekend was sans sponsor, I did not receive palanca from a person who knew me well who knew what I was experiencing. I think I missed something.
Writing palanca gives you the opportunity to affirm that person and lift them up, to tell them you love them as a brother or sister in Christ, to say how much you appreciate them and their gifts, how much they have added to your life, and that you are praying for them. You may never have another opportunity like this one. I have had people say to me that they have read their palanca over and over, weeks and years after their weekends; it has meant that much to them. We also gather palanca from our community, from the pastor, from friends and relatives, if this is part of your secretariat's tradition.
2. Attending the closing--What a glorious thing it is to watch the New Cursillistas come into the closing and see familiar faces, the impromptu embrace in the aisle, tears tripping over smiles. This truly is one of the joys of sponsorship and makes the long drive on a Sunday afternoon worth every mile. You are saying to the New Cursillista, by your presence, "You are important and special to me."
3. Getting your New Cursillista into a reunion group.--This perhaps is the most important. The National Episcopal Cursillo book on sponsorship says, "The real responsibility comes after the three-day weekend is over." I believe the reunion group is what separates the Cursillo method from other spiritual renewal programs. The experience does not end on the weekend. In the reunion group the spiritual thrust from the weekend has someplace to go and be reinforced.
If there is no reunion group, help start one, or invite the New Cursillista to join yours. As Fred said, do not sponsor a Candidate where there is no community to bring them home to. This is a real disservice to that New Cursillista.
An excerpt of the Cursillo Leader's Manual says of whom to sponsor "those who seem to have the potential to become the living vertebrae that animate human communities and bring them to Christ."
The potential to become. It is within the reunion group that this potential becomes reality. It is the training ground, it is the support group, it is the place of encouragement with accountability.
I want to tell you a true story. In May, 1995, Triumphant Lutheran Church called a new pastor, Pastor Douglas Schoelles, who had been a pastor in the Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod and attended a Via de Cristo weekend here.
By the time he arrived at Triumphant I was the only Cursillista left. Pastor Douglas was anxious to send Candidates and so was I. It had been pretty lonely. Together we identified people who I knew had shown an interest or he felt were spiritually ready. We scheduled an information night and put notices in the newsletter and Pastor Douglas send personal notes to each one. We planned to show the NLS video, give an overview of Via de Cristo and answer questions. About six people came, including one whom neither Pastor Douglas nor I had invited. His name is Ken. The Holy Spirit was at work. In the Fall of '95 Pastor Douglas and I sponsored six people, including Ken and his wife, Michelle. We borrowed a van so we could take the men; we wrote palanca for each and bought each a coffee mug, as is our tradition. We repeated the process for the women and, of course, their husbands came for the closing.
Now, it was my responsibility to form a reunion group. We all eight talked about it-when, where, etc., but it was Michelle who announced to me one Sunday that our first group would be held that Monday night at their house. "They", our New Cursillistas, had decided not to wait until after Christmas, in face, we grouped right through Christmas, New Year's and all the Monday holidays. On Memorial Day, Ken and Michelle cooked barbecue for all nine of us.
In May of this year, the Texas Lutheran Via de Cristo held its first Co-Ed weekend and Ken was a table leader. At our upcoming Fall Co-Ed weekend Ken will give the Laity talk. Talk about the joy of sponsorship! I wish you all could meet Ken. I admire him! He is a humble man and quiet. He says giving a talk will be a stretch for him, and it will. But, I reminded him that our group will help him. I am still his sponsor, providing encouragement and a cheering section, after almost one year.
I love to hear Ken share his Piety, Study, and Action. He chooses his words carefully to express himself when he tells how he shares his faith with his co-workers, when he talks to one person in the lunch room, and five or six gather round.
You see, Ken has "potential to become the living vertebrae that animates human communities and brings them to Christ." The Holy Spirit chose one whom Pastor Douglas and I had overlooked.
Before I close I want to share with you a sponsorship model that has been working for us at Triumphant. Perhaps it is what you are already doing; perhaps it won't work in your particular environment. Take from it what you will.
Several months before the next weekend, Pastor Douglas makes a list of those he feels are spiritually ready to attend a weekend. The list usually winds up in my mail box at church. I take it to the reunion group and we add people who have already indicated an interest but who have been unable to attend so far. Our active list totals about 36 with 12 strong possibilities. Then we divide the list. We each take names of those with whom we have a natural connection or already established relationship i.e., through serving on a committee, a prayer group, on altar guild, in choir, etc. In our own way, then, we "recruit" those individuals. Right now I'm working on two couples, the wives of whom are on our Discipleship Team with me.
By dividing the list we don't all converge on one individual. By dividing the list we share the sponsorship responsibility.
We have scheduled another information night which will be publicized in our newsletter and bulletin inviting anyone who is interested in learning more. At the information night we show the NLS video. The video is really a great tool--it gives our individual efforts credence. Then we give an overview of Via de Cristo and answer questions. Our group then decides how we will follow up on those who attended. And we pray. Prayer undergirds and surrounds all our efforts. After the applications are in we discuss how we will provide transportation to and from, what family needs must be provided for, who can attend the closing, and all commit to write palanca to everyone. I think this time we will have a send off as well.
This fall we have two weekends running at the same time, Men's and Co-Ed. So we will have to divide up and make sure each one is covered. You see our community is doing the sponsoring. Then we will have to confront a sad and joyous reality. Our one reunion group will probably have to split up in order to properly seed and grow a reunion group for our New Cursillistas. Ah! The joy of sponsorship.
When we return to our communities let us
remember: It is the Holy Spirit who calls and gathers. To us he gives the
responsibility and the privilege to be the earthly shepherds. We also receive a
gift--the joy of sponsorship. To God be the Glory! Amen.