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Four Brothers and a Madre (Mother)

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 “” 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."



Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 17:42

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Letter from National Cursillo Center

May 31,2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, After 2 months of studying and analyzing the operation and finance of the National Cursillo Center (NCC), I came up with a solution to improve the effectiveness of the NCC: the $3/year donation campaign. There are more than one million Cursillistas who have lived a Cursillo Weekend in the United States. If 10% of the total Cursillistas donate $3/year for the National Cursillo Movement, miraculous things will happen:

• The NCC will achieve its financial and operational stability.

• The NCC will have the budget to revive dormant diocesan movements and to establish the Cursillo movements in some areas.

• The NCC will have the budget to translate good books for each language and establish effective communication channels by means of audio and video technology.

• The National Encounter will be more affordable for every Cursillista. Your donation will help to offset some expenses of the Encounter and therefore drive the cost down.

• The NCC will credit back 25% of your donation toward your Lay Director's ticket to the National Encounter. For example, if 400 Cursillistas in your Diocese donate $3/year, the Center will issue a national encounter voucher of $300 to your Lay Director.

• Similarly, the NCC will credit 3% of your donation toward your Regional Coordinator's ticket to the National Encounter.

• Indeed, your $3/year donation will send about 300 key leaders from all over the U.S to the National Encounter so that they can synchronize with the National Secretariat in terms of the Cursillo charism, literature and materials, methodology, policy and future strategic planning for the National Cursillo Movement.

The NCC is extending the deadline of $385 registration fee until June 15, 2013 to encourage all Lay Directors to attend the National Encounter this year. You can send your Lay Directors and/or delegates to the National Encounter by donating online at Your donation is tax deductible. We're ONE and inseparable in the Mystical Body of Christ. The National Cursillo Center is experiencing challenges and really needs your support. A $3/year or $15 donation for the next 5 years will move our beloved Cursillo Movement forward to the next level. The miracle will happen and it's indeed in your hands now. Your prompt action is greatly appreciated!

De Colores!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 20:15

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Weekend Reflections

by Anne Sanchez
Rectora, Weekend #271

In the new and modern age, many Catholics don’t go to church. They used to go as children when Mom or Dad made them go. Now, it’s becoming harder and harder to find God in the culture. It’s harder and harder to find a reason to believe. It has been said that it takes one generation from inadequate adult catechesis to non church attendance; then one more generation from non-church attendance to unbelief.

I see Cursillo as an antidote to what is happening in the world. G.K. Chesterton said, “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”

There is no greater witness to that love affair with Jesus than in the Cursillo movement.

We in Cursillo have a mission to transform our environments into Christian ones. We are a movement that takes our faith out into the world.

As the women’s team came together for weekend #271, it was so evident that these women were in love with God; ON THE MOUNTAIN we saw such an overwhelming expression of God’s love.

The last women’s weekend, Cursillo #271, was my turn to be the team coordinator, or Rectora. Now it is my turn to step aside and soon there will be another Rectora... and then another.  Each weekend is phenomenal in its beauty and holiness, because the movement is led by the Spirit. When we are ON THE MOUNTAIN together, God’s presence is abundantly felt.

I am so grateful to be a part of the movement; so grateful that I can pass the experience on to my children, and one day to my grandchildren.

I have no doubt that we can slowly but surely regain our momentum and be instrumental in helping to bring God back into the culture.

De Colores!

Last Updated on Sunday, 28 April 2013 16:52

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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.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 May 2013 09:29

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The Gift You're Given, Give to Others

For me, this rector experience was a sweet ride, a real season of grace.


I first sensed the weekend began to jell in the last meetings of team school.   The rollos got better and better; the spirit of the team grew, inspiring confidence in everyone.  Yes, Sparky worked overtime, but the Spirit whispered, "Don't worry. Everything will work out."  And all our problems resolved themselves quickly.


Larry BrodingOn Friday morning of the weekend, Gary Lowe set the stage with a solid rollo on Ideals, then Deacon Rick Melrose gave his dynamic rollo on Habitual Grace.  From that point on, the weekend took off like a rocket and never lost altitude.  In talk after talk, the team and the candidates grew together, stronger and stronger.  Jon Lutack summed up building momentum in his magnificent rollo on Christianity in Action when he said, "Relationship becomes community and community becomes the Body of Christ."  Amen, brother.  When I heard the wind whip over the mountain on late Saturday night; I realized that was an apt metaphor for the work of the Spirit on the weekend, rockin' our spiritual house, taking the weekend to a place I never could have imagined. If any one phrase could describe the spiritual destination of the weekend, Joe Gilbreath stated it plainly as the punchline to his empowered Piety rollo, "Yes, Lord,  Now, what's the question."


Coming down the mountain has left me with a sense of gratitude.  I thank God for the opportunity to serve and for the gift of an unbelievable weekend.  I am grateful to the best team I could ever imagine; it was truly God's team for his weekend.


Finally, I would like to thank our new Cursillistas for the chance to walk this journey with you, to serve you and to bring you into this wonderful movement of Christian leaders.


It was a sweet ride, indeed.


Larry Broding

Rector for Weekend 270


Last Updated on Sunday, 28 April 2013 16:53

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©2012 San Diego English Speaking Cursillo

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