The Roots of Cursillo in the UK

This article by the late Rev’d Canon Hywyn Jones, the “father” of Cursillo in Wales (if not the UK) was published in the March 1999 edition of Pathway under the title

The Year of the Rainbow

I was struggling in a large Parish, desperately short-staffed and begging myishop to send me just one more Priest. Full of apologies that not enough Candidates were coming forward for Ordination, he told me of his friendship with Bishop Davies of Dallas, (who was of Welsh Origin), and how the Bishop was keen for some of his clergy to have experience of Ministry outside of the USA. If he could arrange it, would I take an American Priest? I was desperate, and quickly replied – “I’ll take anything”!!!

Within three months an eccentric Texan Priest from Fort Worth, by the name of Father James Lee Walker, arrived on my doorstep, and Holyhead has never been the same since!

I talked a lot to him about renewal and he talked a lot about something called “Cursillo” and from what I gleaned this appeared to be just what I wanted for Holyhead. Could he possibly get bold of the programme and the gist of the talks so that we could attempt something similar within the Parish?

Reluctantly he rang the Spiritual Director for Cursillo at Dallas, who also reluctantly gave a veiled and guarded “Yes”. The following evening however, Lee received a call from Father Pat Hutton saying that he would willingly bring a Team over to give us all Cursillo – if the Bishop agreed.  I rang the Bishop immediately (Archbishop G.O.Williams) who readily agreed, in that he had seen the impact Cursillo was having throughout the Diocese of  Dallas.

Within 8 Months, in September 1981, 14 Texans arrived in West Wales, and were seen in and around Holyhead in their Stetsons! One of them – Judge Jim Allen had been newly promoted to a County or Circuit Judge and he had to be sworn in on a particular day. Father Lee Walker rang the American Embassy and found that the only Legal Office in Holyhead authorised to do this was Cledwyn Hughes’ Office (Lord Cledwyn).   When we all arrived at the Office on the day appointed, to see Jim being sworn in, we found that the only Bible available to swear on was a Welsh Bible! at which, Jim turned to Lee, saying “ Lee, is this book sure the word of God or not?”

Needless to say Cursillo No 1 was a wonderful week-end A very different wake up, in that the Americans could only find one lone individual throughout the UK. who had experienced Cursillo in the States.  He was from Wolverhampton, and they got him to a Hotel in Llandudno for the Saturday night —- and then he overslept”

On that Sunday evening, tired or not, we had another Party, back in Holyhead with the Americans, and then, all day Monday we had a debriefing with them and they put us through a Training Day for our Cursillo No 2. On the Tuesday, they left for a nine day holiday in Scotland and in London Their parting shot to me, was “Hywyn, this is now your baby”

Two weeks later, they took Cursillo to Gloucester and we from Cursillo Cymru No 1 were there for wake up and for the closing Eucharist. “Baby, have you grown so wonderfully”

What was so different about this first U.K. Cursillo, was that we had no idea what to expect, in that no one from the whole of the U.K. had ever been through this 3 Day experience.  Another difference from our present day Cursillos was that instead of spreading throughout our own Diocese  Participants were clamouring to come on Cursillo from outside the Diocese and Province.  Friends and relatives were hearing about it from as afar as Scotland, Exeter, Northern. Ireland and London, and we were filling each Cursillo with 26 Participants three and four times a year, long before the closing dates for the Weekends.

Yes – the “Baby” grew and grew, and within 18 months Brian Franks and I and two others met in my Study at Holyhead, to discuss how we were to safeguard this “Baby” and very soon afterwards B.A.C.C. was formed – and how that small band has also grown!!

It has been a tremendous privilege to have been part of all this wonderful “Renewal” that I had talked so much about with Father Lee Walker, and I thank God for the sheer joy~ it has brought to my life and to that of thousands of others.