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Angels

There are a variety of interesting phenomena that we ponder. One, for example, is the notion of Angels. Do they really exist? Are they flying around us with wings and halos performing miracles and catching us when we fall? Are they among us? Personally, I didn’t believe any of those things. Then again, I didn’t believe much of anything for a very long time. I was put on this planet to be the best wife and mother I could be, busy myself to the point of utter chaos, and enjoy myself at all times (often at the expense of those closest to me). I was fairly popular, smart, a lot of fun at parties, gainfully employed, affable, came from a wonderful, faith-filled family, married to a wonderful man who blessed me with beautiful, healthy children. Yet, I felt empty as a hobo’s wallet on the inside. But, how can that be?


Chicago to SDRelocating from Chicago to San Diego with my husband and two babies was a most difficult transition for me. I felt that I was leaving everyone and everything that made me feel secure. I must be one of the only people on earth who prefers Chicago to San Diego. At any rate, I was in complete free fall. Where were the “angels?” Where was God and his cast of characters? How could I possibly overlook all these blessings only to feel void of joy, peace, and serenity?


As hard as I tried to break out of this empty, self pitying state, it became increasingly clear that those angels I occasionally pondered did not exist. I was basking in my own personal pity party. I was happy with my family, but quickly became active in every possible club or organization that would “fill me”; PTA president, softball league president, coach for every sport imaginable, part time work. I felt like I made a million friends and still felt as though something important was missing. What I had come to learn later was that I had excluded Christ from my friendship circle. Years passed, and not much changed. I continued to think that people and possessions would somehow fill me. If my friends from Chicago were only here, or, I there, I would surely be filled with joy. Outwardly, I seemed perfectly happy. I created a social network of many, many people to fill the holes of my soul and bring me joy, peace, and serenity…or so I thought.


As my children got older I went to work at Uni High. While working on an auction committee for a wine tasting fundraiser I became friends with a wonderful woman. She was genuinely happy with every aspect of her life. Her name is Patti Ghio. We had children that were the same age, so we had plenty in common. One day while assembling auction baskets she asked me “have you made your Cursillo?” I said “No, I don’t even know what that is!” She told me that it was a kind of retreat, and that she thought I’d enjoy it. I went home and asked my husband if he would be interested…he was not. That was 12 years ago. As years passed, my social network of friends grew and was wonderful, but the feelings of emptiness were as strong as ever. I began to think that I was destined to have these empty feelings and that I would never experience inner peace and joy. What I didn’t realize was that Patti was the first of many angels sent my way who would plant seeds for a new experience and new relationships that would change my life.


I became curious about Cursillo and began asking people if they could tell me about it. How could there possibly be ANYTHING that I wasn’t already involved with? No one I asked really knew about it, though. Oh well, it must be an exclusive type of retreat.


The following year I had the pleasure of striking up a close friendship with another Uni mom whose children were in class with mine. Her name was Denise Caster. As our friendship grew I recognized that she, too, had a characteristic that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but I longed for. It was very similar to Patti’s. They both had a quiet, humble confidence and kindness. They were truly content. Denise and her husband offered to sponsor us for a Cursillo weekend. Again I approached my husband and again he declined the opportunity.


CEOI was your classic biannual Catholic, Christmas and Easter. I hadn’t really shut God out of my life, but I made no time for him. I was fine with that because I could do everything on my own so I didn’t need Him. I began to wonder, though, if faith was one of the reasons why these women seemed so at peace with their lives. Fortunately, I was about to begin a faith journey that would be life altering and have my disbelief in angels reversed.


I was in Little Italy one Sunday watching my sons and husband play stickball. I hadn’t been to Mass in over a year. I heard the 11:55 church bells at Our Lady of the Rosary ringing and thought it might be nice to see the inside of that church, since I was Italian and it was supposedly an Italian church. I left the stickball field and went into church. Much to my surprise, the walls didn’t crumble. I was blessed to meet Father Louie Solcia. I loved his direct homily, his conviction, passion, and love for the Lord…and I grew to love him. I continued to go to Mass each week and become active in his Bible study, Padre Pio devotions, and other parish activities. He gave me the desire and direction to get back to meaningful prayer and pride in my faith. During one of our discussions, he mentioned Cursillo. He told me that had made his in Canada many years ago. “You should do it if you can” he would tell me. Cursillo again, I thought! It keeps coming back! Was Father Louie an angel? In my mind he was saintly for sure.


I felt called to serve the poor, so I left my position at Cathedral High to work at Nativity Prep Academy, a school whose mission is to help impoverished children break their cycle of poverty through education. I am charged with raising money to keep this wonderful, independent, Catholic school for low income children in operation. Not easy, but very rewarding. There, I met David Rivera, who posed the recurring question for me regarding Cursillo. OKAY, I thought. This is getting ridiculous! Maybe Cursillo holds something for me? My spouse held his ground that he had no interest in attending…it wasn’t his thing.


I was having a great conversation with a woman who volunteers at Nativity Prep. Her name is Cathy Dunlay. As you would come to expect, over time I’m asked about Cursillo. NO, I HAVEN’T MADE MY CURSILLO! My husband doesn’t want to go, so I’m out of luck, OKAY? In the wings of this conversation was our school Chaplain, Fr. Gil. I had no idea he was involved with Cursillo at that time. He tells me to fill out the form if I really want to go, because there may be a way I could participate. I now realize I was surrounded by angels all along…Cursistas everywhere I turned. I came to realize that I was wrong about the angels. They were everywhere; Fr. Louie, Fr. Gil, Patti Ghio, Denise Caster, Cathy Dunlay, Deacon Mike Daniels, David Rivera, Colleen O’Neil, and Dr. Kelly, just to name a few. Even the person who does the printing for Nativity Prep, Thom Hiatt!


I made Cursillo #267. I experienced a miracle while up on the mountain. In reading all my palanca letters, I came to realize that I had letters from everyone who made a difference in my life except for my mother, who cannot write, and my father, who had passed away shortly before my weekend. In heading up to Mary’s Grotto I was meditating on my parents and the wonderful life they had provided for me. As I got to the statue of Mary, she was holding out her hand, and in it, was a rosary that was made by my mother and father. They were rosary makers. Marys GrottoHe would bead, she would knot. There was my palanca. My knees buckled when I saw Mary with one of their rosaries as if she were handing it to me. I knew it was one of theirs, because they are specifically made for the military and are missing the center medal. It was a life-changing moment and weekend for me, as it is for many people.


I finally found what I was missing…it was my relationship with Christ, with the operative word being relationship, and others who love Christ and his message. I can now feel his peace, joy, and serenity within me. Thank you, Lord, for Cursillo, my groupies, and all the angels among us. My newly found relationship with Christ is what has filled me with peace, joy, and serenity.

©2012 San Diego English Speaking Cursillo

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