Another Memorial Day Weekend Wasted. Or not.

Created on Monday, 02 September 2013 10:22 Written by Matthew Waclawik

When he made his Cursillo in May 1975, Barry La Forgia had recently left the Air Force, and was attending law school at University of San Diego.  “I went up to the mountain (Pala Rey Boys’ Camp) thinking I would be wasting my Memorial Day weekend holiday. I had very little expectations that my views (borderline agnostic) would be changed.  My year spent as a pilot in the Vietnam War left me with a view that if God existed, he was a very distant God.  God may have created mankind, but he was definitely ‘missing in action’.”


Barry’s Cursillo weekend turned him around spiritually.  “It was eye-opening for me to see professional, very well educated men, with a deep faith in a personal God - a God who cared for us as His children.  For the first time in my life, I experienced God’s personal love for me. He became real to me.”   


Barry began working many Cursillo weekends as a guitarist on the music team, and his faith deepened.   After establishing a solid law practice, he still felt that God was asking him to do something “more” with his life.  He had an opportunity to work as a laborer on a mission trip to Amazon Jungle in 1986, and then in 1987 another trip took him to one of the largest garbage dumps in Mexico City.  He was appalled to see the poorest of the poor – sometimes three generations of a single family – living in filth, squalor and unsanitary conditions. “The sight of little children too tired to wipe away the flies that lined the corners of their mouth, eyes and nose was almost unbearable to watch,” recalled Barry. “To survive, families had to rummage each day through the new garbage in search of recyclables that they could sell for a few pesos to buy food.”


Barry felt he had to do something. Within eight months, he left behind his law practice and founded what was first known as Southwest Medical Teams. One of its first projects was to return to that Mexico City dump to help renovate a small medical clinic and construct a shower facility to improve the lives of the families he could not forget.  


“What I do now had its beginnings with Cursillo,” stated Barry.   


International Relief Teams (IRT), founded and directed by Barry La Forgia, will celebrate 25 years of providing hope and healing to thousands worldwide at its Gifts of Hope Gala Saturday, September 28th at the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina.  All Cursillistas are welcome to join in the Celebration.  For reservation information, please call 619-284-7979.


Since 1998, IRT has deployed more than 5,900 volunteers, delivered $237 million in medicines and relief supplies, and has provided assistance in 66 countries, including right here in the United States.  IRT is the recipient of the Four Star (highest) rating by Charity Navigator, the largest independent evaluator of U.S. charities, for the last 10 years in a row.  Only 1% of the charities ranked have attained this distinction, and according of Charity Navigator, IRT is the only San Diego charity to receive the coveted Four Star Rating for 10 consecutive years.


“Many of the friends I made through Cursillo became the founding supporters of our organization,” said Barry.  “We couldn’t have made it without their generosity and compassion.  Many of them are still active volunteers and supporters of IRT to this day”.

©2012 San Diego English Speaking Cursillo