The first women’s Cursillo in the Diocese of Wichita was held in November of 1987. (Courtesy photo)

By Fr. Jerome Beat
By the end of the year 2018 the Catholic Diocese of Wichita hosted 127 three-day Cursillo Weekends in English for men and women. We also had 62 weekends in Spanish, but we will have that story in another article.
Cursillo is a Spanish word meaning “short course.” The full name is “Cursillo in Christianity.” It originated in Majorca, Spain, in the late 1940s by several men headed by Eduardo Bonni who dedicated his entire life to this movement. They hoped that the Cursillo would “fire up” the faith life of many lukewarm Catholics. Its success manifested itself by being established in 45 countries on five continents with the concentration in North and South America.

The first men’s Cursillo in the Diocese of Wichita was held in October of 1987.

The center of Cursillo is the full three-day intensive weekend of a spiritual retreat, study, and sharing on being a Christian servant leader and missionary disciple. To keep the “fires burning” and growing close to our Lord, the follow-up includes weekly group meetings and larger monthly gatherings to share and encourage one another in our goal to live in the love of Jesus Christ.
The beginning of the Cursillo Apostolate in the Wichita diocese was in the year 1985 when Bishop Eugene J. Gerber appointed Fr. John Sherlock as spiritual advisor. Names were collected of those in our diocesan family who had made the weekend outside the diocese. Meetings were held on a few occasions to become acquainted and making decisions on how to proceed. These two leaders, along with Fr. Jerome Beat, the new spiritual advisor, formed the nucleus of the teams for the first local three-day weekends in October for men and November for women. This was in 1987. Thanks to a number of leaders from the Kansas City Archdiocese, the Cursillo Apostolate was off to a good start for both the men’s and women’s weekends.
Our first 12 weekends were in the old English-style Vickers Mansion located on the campus of Kapaun Mount Carmel High school in east Wichita. This beautiful home previously served as the convent of the B.V.M. Sisters who taught at the school. When that building was demolished in 1990 to make room for additional school facilities, the weekends were moved to the campus of what is today Newman University, who welcomed the celebration of four Cursillo weekends.
When the Spiritual Life Center was completed it became the home for all Cursillo weekends. Several couples served in Wichita and led our movement for many years: Dr. Richard and June Cole from Caney had served on teams in military services in various countries; Don and Phyllis Charvat of Belle Plaine had participated in a weekend in Kansas City, Kansas, back in 1984 and zealously served Cursillo for more years to come, with Phyllis continuing on in the regional and national levels.
Another dedicated couple, Bill and Joan Hogan, attended a weekend in Ohio and since then were on leadership roles in the diocese. Don and Bill, along with generous persons were lay directors during the past 33 years. Cheryl McCart of Halstead is our present leader today.
In the meantime, these candidates of our first weekends deserve special mention. Tony Barba, M.D., shared how the weekend changed his attitude and relation with God, his family, and patients in his medical profession. Dr. Barba has worked for the Cursillo Apostolate up to the present time.
Jim and Lena Wells also made the first two weekends and his commitment to Cursillo encouraged him to become diocesan lay director, serving two terms as regional coordinator, two positions as national secretariat, and treasurer on the worldwide level.
His wife, Lena, strongly supported him until she passed away in 2010, afterwhich Jim finished his official Cursillo duties.
Along with these dedicated lay people, a number of religious sisters served in important roles during the weekends, both in presenting talks and personal spiritual direction. Sr. Cecilia Leiker and several of her Adorers of the Blood of Christ were involved in this work, along with Sr. Joann Schneider of the Congregation of St. Joseph. These women religious were blessings to Cursillo for many of our 32 years.
From Hutchinson, Dominican Sr. Agatha Fairmon, now over 90 years of age who is retired and living with her sister, has also been a source of encouragement to Cursillo in many weekends held at Holy Cross Parish.
Of course, we must remember that several of our diocesan priests had been involved in Cursillo through the years, working in past Cursillo activities, especially with the reverent celebration of Masses and the comforting administration of the Sacrament of Penance on those occasions.
Almost always there have been two priests available for weekends. Only a few can be mentioned here: Fr. Steve Baxter made the weekend in 2005 and became very active in Cursillo until his untimely death in February of 2013. He was appointed spiritual advisor of the English Cursillo most of the time since moving to Halstead. Fr. Michael Maybrier has given Cursillo credit for transforming his parishes as pastor. Besides recruiting so many Cursillistas he worked generously on many three-day weekends. From the beginning until the present time, Fr. Jerome Beat has help lead the English Cursillos.
An ironic incident of our history was that the Kansas City Cursillo who helped us get started in 1987 fell into a dormant stage around the year 2000. At their invitation, some of the Wichita leaders went up to help them get reorganized, and the happy result is that they continue on to this very day. Some of our leaders also helped both the Salina and Dodge City dioceses begin the English Cursillos.
The members of the Cursillo Apostolate in the Wichita Diocese are grateful to the late Bishop Gerber for his great support for many years. At the same time, they express their gratitude to Bishop Carl Kemme’s commitment to carry on this important apostolate in the diocese. He now requires all seminarians of our diocese attend a Cursillo weekend before they are ordained priests.
What a blessing the Cursillo Apostolate is to us in our diocesan family!
Fr. Beat is a retired priest of the diocese.