Four Brothers and a Madre (Mother)

Created on Sunday, 01 September 2013 10:32 Written by Carmen Jordan Lonergan

It all started in October 1996 when Rick Mansur and Matt Walker decided to attend Cursillo.  They did not know quite what to expect, especially Rick.  Rick’s dad invited him to go on the retreat and he was working the kitchen that weekend, but Rick was unaware of the events that would occur during the retreat.  He was a bit anxious, but he found the men at his table very interesting and personable.  Rick and Matt hit it off during the weekend and connecting on both personal and professional levels.  Although they were in different fields, hospitality versus the legal system, Rick and Matt bonded by their shared Cursillo experience and their similar age.  They also connected with the table “plant” retreatant, Mike Bonetto.  

SEPT1Rick and Matt integrated their Cursillo experiences, and as so many Cursillistas, they started grouping every Wednesday night.  Since they established a connection with Mike over the weekend as well, he started grouping with them too.  After about three weeks, another member from the October weekend team, one of the musicians who knew Mike, joined the group.  Mark Winkler and Mike, who both attended St. Brigid’s Church, knew each other from carpooling to a Cursillo weekend.  Mike invited Mark to join the group, and that is how the brotherhood occurred—almost seventeen years ago…

The group was faithful in meeting every Wednesday.  As busy professionals, once in a while someone would miss, but the men took the challenge of truly practicing the method of prayer, study, and action.  Cursillo moved them from simply sitting in the pews focusing on their school-boy catechism to integrating the faith into who they were as men in Christ.  They became best friends and brothers in Christ, addressing each other as, “Brother!” when interacting with each other.  The brothers became important parts of each other’s lives, celebrating happy occasions such as weddings with enthusiasm and helping each other with the challenges of life.  

SEPT3Through all of this, the brothers decided they needed to go deeper with the action portion of the Cursillo method.  They were faithful to the prayer and study, but they felt that as a group, they could make a difference in many people’s lives.  Matt knew a sister who lived in Tijuana, so the men decided to start there.  They contacted Madre Antonia to help her build a chapel.  Unfortunately, building was not one of their gifts, and although their intentions were generous, the execution of the project did not go well.   For example, Rick broke a window as they tried to build the chapel, so the men did not feel as though they really helped “Madre” in her need.  Madre did not mind, and she was grateful for their assistance that day.  They talked over potato tacos, and the brothers got to know her a bit better.

The men still felt called to action, but instead of construction, they decided to utilize their various gifts and talents to help Madre.  Madre Antonia lived in the La Mesa Prison in Tijuana and also had a home for people who were suffering from illnesses, their families, and the families of the incarcerated men.  She relied on donations alone, so the brothers decided to do something: host an event to raise money for Madre and her house.  Together they pulled their resources and skills and hosted a dinner at the Rancho Bernardo Inn around the pool.  In order to get people to attend, they plastered cars with fliers at a few local parishes during Masses.  About 150 people attended the “1st Annual Madre’s Fiesta and Silent Auction” back in 2000.  The men were exhausted from all of the planning but delighted by the end result: they had raised money to support Madre’s ministry to the poorest of the poor right in San Diego’s backyard of Tijuana.

The next year, the brothers were at it again, reaching out to more people to help with planning the event.  People came and the Fiesta became bigger.  That year, the Fiesta moved to the RBI Ballroom and again, people were incredibly generous with their donations.  Year after year, the brothers continued the fundraiser.  Eventually, they started getting more Cursillistas involved, and that is how I got to know them!  My Cursillo Sisters, Margie Hernandez and Claudia Moran, convinced me to first attend, and then slowly, year by year, get me on the committee!  

SEPT2Madre Antonia is now close to 87 years old, and because of her health, she is no longer able to live in the La Mesa Prison in Tijuana.  She still visits the men there and still ministers to the poorest of the poor.  She attends all of the Fiestas, which gives people an opportunity to hear this amazing woman speak about love: love of God, love of each other, and love of the poorest of the poor.  We are so blessed to be able to hear her speak and to help her and her order in their ministry.  

The four brothers, Rick, Matt, Mark, and Mike, have been a blessing to Madre Antonia and her ministry.  Without their help and the fundraising that occurs at the Fiesta, it would be a challenge for her to fund her ministry.  Throughout the years, the Fiesta has raised over $700,000 for Madre’s ministry.  The brothers have also given other people an opportunity to be a part of this wonderful ministry to the poorest of the poor.  They feel blessed to be a part of Madre’s mission and ministry as well.  

SEPT4The “13th Annual Madre’s Fiesta and Silent Auction” will be held this year on Friday, September 13, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa.  If you are interested in attending, you may call 619-292-8220 or go on-line to “madresfiesta.org” for more information.


And it all started back in October 1996 when Rick and Matt met each other, Mike was the team “plant” at their table and Mark joined them for grouping a couple of weeks later.  As Rick and Mark so eloquently said recently, “Cursillo gave us a sense of community that would allow for service.  It made our faith in Christ our own."



©2012 San Diego English Speaking Cursillo