Father Kenneth Doyle

Q. I have not made a Cursillo myself, but I have the impression that it is an intensive study in a retreat-type atmosphere from which an individual should come away with a more intimate relationship with God and a deeper desire to be more Christ-like.

In our parish, though, there is a group that makes just about every Cursillo in the area and they project an attitude of being “better than” the rest of us who have not attended. Rather than seeming more Christ-like, they resemble a clique from junior high school days, with them being the “cool kids.” Our pastor just seems to encourage them. I don’t think that he sees the divisive nature of their actions. What advice can you offer? (Missouri)

A. First, some background for those unfamiliar with the Cursillo movement. A Cursillo is a “short course” in Christianity, offered usually over a three-day weekend. It was started by laymen in Spain in the 1940s, became popular in the United States in the 1960s and is now a worldwide movement. Its goal is that, by reviewing the fundamentals of Christianity in a retreat-like atmosphere, people might be energized to deepen their friendship with Christ and their commitment to others.

Successes from the Cursillo weekend can be well-documented. It has been, for many, a positive and even life-changing experience to hear other laypeople embrace their faith and testify to its value.

There are also follow-up meetings on a regular basis (called “ultreyas”) to share experiences in applying faith to daily life. And when new people make the weekend, they often receive letters from Cursillo “veterans” supporting them with the promise of prayers.

As with alumni of any common experience (college fraternity, seminary training, etc.), camaraderie is natural and often endures. However, built in through consistent reminders in Cursillo literature is the caution to avoid “spiritual arrogance,” to reject an “us and them” attitude that might suggest that a Cursillo is the only road to holiness.

The goal always is for the Cursillo graduate to become a leaven in the wider Christian community. If that is not happening in your parish, why not talk to your pastor directly about your concerns over the “divisiveness”?

Perhaps he could address the issue by speaking to the Cursillistas, explaining why the energy that flows out of the Cursillo experience can sometimes be misunderstood.

Q. Our Marian study club has a question for you. How do Catholic churches get their names? Who picks them out? (Belle Plaine, Iowa)

A. Canon law gives wide latitude in the naming of Catholic churches, requiring simply that they be named after: the Trinity; Jesus, under a title or mystery of his life; the Holy Spirit; Mary; the angels; a canonized saint; or, with Vatican permission, someone who has been beatified.

Since it is a bishop’s prerogative to establish parishes and churches, it is also his right to name them. Lately, however, more and more deference has been given to the input of parishioners — especially in the case of the merger of parishes. The parish where I am stationed may serve as an example.

Four years ago, due to demographic shifts, a neighboring church was scheduled to close and merge with ours to create a new parish. A committee of representatives from both churches was formed to assist with the merger. At the top of that committee’s agenda was the consideration of a name for the new parish.

The committee made the decision that, rather than try to combine both former names into a hybrid title, a new name would indicate more clearly that the combined parish was a fresh enterprise, with all parishioners starting off on equal footing.

After study and discussion, the committee listed about a dozen possible names and parishioners at both churches were polled. The three leading names from that vote were then submitted to the bishop, along with the vote tally, and the bishop ratified our parishioners’ top choice.


Questions to Father Doyle may be sent to him at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com or 40 Hopewell St., Albany, NY 12208.