The Name – School of Leaders


Sheelagh Winston
Ottawa November 27-28




The term School of Leaders is one that seems to cause much confusion, to the point that in some places, the name has been changed to various other things. I think that rather than change the name, it would be better to try to understand what the name means and what the School is in the Cursillo mentality.

Both words, School and Leaders, seem to cause equal misunderstanding. Perhaps some of the difficulty comes from translating words from one language to another but once we understand the full meaning, it seems clear that the term is very apt, even in English.

In English, the word ‘school’, drums up visions of students sitting in desks, listening to a person or persons, teaching. In the context of Cursillo, nothing could be further from the truth. It is not and never has been a ‘school’ where someone, such as a veteran Cursillista, shares their assumed vast knowledge. We use the term, ‘school of thought’, where people who are already knowledgeable to a greater or lesser degree, gather to share the same ideas and philosophies. Together they explore and deepen their understanding and gain wisdom and insight from each other. The same is true of a ‘school’ of painting. This is not an art school; it is a place where painters using the same style and technique develop their ideas of expression together, again learning from each other. Or perhaps another way to see it is as a ‘school’ of fish, all swimming in the same direction with no one of them actually leading. It has to be a school of ideas, interaction, and involvement.

How many times have we heard people say, “I’m not a leader!” In the Cursillo context, being a Leader has nothing to do with being in charge of something, such as president of this, or chairperson of that. In the Cursillo mentality, we say, that anyone can be a Leader if they choose to be. It is more about what you are than what you do. If you look in any school yard it is easy to pick out the kids who are natural leaders. The rest of the children look to them for direction, they seem to lead the pack. No-one has appointed them, they just have that kind of personality. Some are born with natural leadership qualities but they can be learned.

Therefore, belonging to the School does not automatically make one a Leader, and similarly, all the Leaders are not necessarily in the School. In fact, some of the best Leaders may never attend and their reasons for not doing so are their own. The important thing is that everyone should feel free to enthusiastically offer their gift wherever the Lord calls them, and only they and He can know where that is.

Again, it is important to realize that we are not a Leader because we are members of the School. It is because we already are, or have the potential to be a Leader in our ordinary lives. The School is not an elite place for the ‘best’ but a place where each one there desires to give the best of themselves to the whole Movement. It should also not be thought that belonging to the School automatically means that a person will be called as a Leader or team member on the three days of the Cursillo.


I understand that here in Ottawa there is a real desire to form a properly functioning School. An authentic School is not an event, it, like the Group Reunion, exists whether it is meeting or not. It is something tangible. Every Movement needs a core group of Leaders who have dedicated themselves to deepening their understanding of the Cursillo Movement as a whole. They are people who want to get to the bottom of the method, the mentality, the strategy, because they want to understand the Why. This core group of Leaders then acts as leaven within the larger community in a very natural and ordinary way. The fact is, they understand Cursillo, they ‘get it’.

Take a cook or chef. For the most part a seasoned cook does not need a recipe book. They know what they are trying to accomplish, they understand the tools they have to work with, they understand the ingredients they have to hand. Being short of either a tool or an ingredient does not send them scrambling for the cooking manual. Their knowledge and understanding of the essence of what they are trying to do, is so much a part of them, of their mentality, that making the right choices in any situation is almost instinctive.

The same is true for well ‘schooled’ Leaders in the Movement. As leaven within the Movement they do not teach by preaching but rather by being living witnesses of the very essence of the Charism.

So what about this notion that ‘I am not a leader’? We have to make it clear as I said, that being a Leader in Cursillo is not about having a position. It could be said that there are leaders in Cursillo and Cursillo Leaders.

Being a Cursillo Leader is about living the Cursillo method in the marketplace of our everyday lives. I’m not sure why there is such a problem with understanding this concept for when we talk about being a Christian leader we are clear in what we mean. We know that as Christian leaders we do not have to hold a position, we don’t run the parish or any of its organizations. We understand that we show leadership whenever we strive to live out what baptism asks of every Christian. The same is true in Cursillo. Cursillo leaders live the Cursillo in their everyday environments. It’s as simple as that. There is no hierarchy in Cursillo, no careers or ranks such as new Cursillista, veteran, or rector.
The Leader in Cursillo on the other hand is one who has chosen or been called to work in the Movement for a period of time and in some capacity. They are in fact both a Leader in Cursillo while at the same time being a Cursillo Leader in their own lives.


The Cursillo Movement did not just happen, it is not a bright idea that simply took hold. It is the result of a long process of reflection, thought, commitment and tenaciousness. Eduardo Bonnin received the gift of the Charism from the Holy Spirit but he needed to share that inspiration with some of his friends and together they put flesh on the bones of the idea. It all began essentially in this group of friends which is what a School of Leaders is and the necessity for an active and authentic group of friends who organize themselves into a group named the School of Leaders is as vital to every Movement today as it was in the very beginning, before the first Cursillo in Cala Figuera.

It is essential and every Movement, however small should have a School of Leaders that acts like the spokes of an umbrella, supporting the whole.

In the book, “Structure of Ideas”, Eduardo Bonnin and Franciso Forteza, explain it this way:

“It is the gathering or reunion of leaders, that illuminates, encourages and relieves our restlessness with the best means possible: friendship. It is the place where leaders are in tune with the same spirit, following a common criterion, where our apostolic nature is spontaneous. It is not preached, but lived together, and it is where the truth is foremost because we all wish it and we all live it.”

As previously mentioned, belonging to the School is not something that one does simply because there is an upcoming weekend and attendance might guarantee one a place on the team as one of the leaders or as a team member. From the very beginning, the Schools have been places for ideas to be shared and debated and to coordinate actions, they are first and foremost the place where the Leaders learn to deepen their own understanding of living what is fundamental to being Christian and then finding ways for practical application in the Movement as a whole which is the three phases of precursillo, weekend and postcursillo. It is here that the Cursillistas are permeated with the Vision of the Founder and it is here that they come to understand their own role as Leaders. For again, it cannot be emphasised strongly enough that the School is not about being a Cursillista, but is about growing and developing according to the criterion of the Gospel, being the Christian Leaders to which our baptism calls us.

It must also be reiterated that the School is the place that the technique of the Rollos is perfected, becoming the authentic expression of what is being lived by the Rollista.

Since introducing the rollo outlines used in Mallorca we sometimes hear that people have difficulty in preparing them. The complaint is often that there is not enough structure in the outlines. This would be true if the rollista is not living the message of the rollos in everyday life, any rollo that one is asked to give, is simply an expression of what is known and lived. One of our Leaders, put it very well.

He said the outline of the Rollo is simply a framework on which we hang our lives as a Cursillista. It is in the School that the Leaders learn to see how what they live is in every Rollo.


It is also true that anyone, the newest Cursillista, or the most seasoned veteran, can be invited to prepare a Rollo for the School on any topic because it is about sharing what is lived, not only what is known.

Share being in the School in Mallorca
Young and new Cursillista
Many veterans present, they listened with interest and attention
Their response to his rollo was good
Told his rollo was brilliant, he showed a new perspective on a well known topic
It is a way to involve the new cursillistas, especially the young ones
Gives them a place and a voice
This way the School members come to a deeper understanding of each other and the message
What there is to learn about Cursillo is like the Gospel, always new, always relevant.


It is important to realize, it is a School OF leaders, not a School FOR leaders. As stated above, it is where the Leaders and potential leaders come together to be something, searching always for a deepening of their personal relationship with God in Christ, friendship with one another, unity of thought and understanding, spiritual growth and formation. The School first and foremost is a School of Listening not teaching and all done with a group of friends.


As we all know, Cursillo is a movement and not an organization. However, in order to be effective, there must be some organization, some structure for the School but it must be kept to a minimum and allowed to grow and develop freely. The School must meet the reality of each individual Movement so there can be no single or right way for the School to operate but if the core group of Leaders understands the goal and what they are trying to accomplish it will succeed. The School has no beginning or end, now semester structure from which one can graduate. It is and must be an ongoing reality where those who choose to live the Cursillo come together to discover new ways to live what is fundamental to being Christian.


At CCCC we get requests on ‘how do you program a School of Leaders?’ There is no ‘program’ for a School. As long as it contains the essential elements you have a School. This whole weekend is being presented as a model of what a School can be. There are other models depending on the size of the movement and its geographical reality. Share LA.


Each of the sessions that we present can be considered as one session of an actual School. It consists of:

Prayer to the Holy Spirit
A rollo by a Cursillista. (not necessarily a veteran, it can be someone who is very new)
A witness in some way as to how the topic is being lived in an individual’s life.
General discussion
Input from those present
Closing prayer

If you choose to have a song, coffee, whatever, that is up to the individual diocese or Cursillo group.


In Mallorca, upon which the CCCC is modeling its understanding, there are three different levels to the School.
One that is open to all who are interested (all Cursillistas are welcome)
The core or administration group who plan and perfect the Ultreya and make decisions concerning the Movement as a whole (don’t forget that the secretariat members would be part of this group) Participation in this group is by invitation
A person or persons responsible for extra curricular events such as anniversaries, special events surrounding the movement such as the annual picnic or whatever.


Remember, the School exists whether it is gathered or not and it is constantly seeking ways to become of one mind, one heart. I will emphasize again that the School is not an event, it is a gathering of people who are the School whether they are meeting or not. The School should meet on a frequent and regular basis. It isn’t a whole weekend like this or even a day. It is an evening (or a Saturday morning, whenever is convenient to the majority) and it doesn’t need to last a whole evening.

Occasionally, the topic discussed at the School will be of a Spiritual nature. This would normally be given by a priest. It might be a study of Church documents or the meditations of the weekend. The caution here is that the School not become catechetical. Topics given by the priest should be not more than 1 in every 4 sessions.


As we have already discussed, there are many Movements which do not have a properly functioning School of Leaders. This means that the whole responsibility for the Movement then rests with the Secretariat. Hopefully, from this presentation, it will be understood that this is really putting the cart before the horse. As I said previously, the School functions like the spokes of an umbrella, supporting the whole Movement. From this analogy it should be clear that without the School, any Movement must be struggling to maintain its proper form and in many places the secretariat takes responsibility for everything. It must be clearly understood however, that the School and the Secretariat work in tandem, they are indivisible from each other. All those who are on the Secretariat would normally be members of the School. If this is actually the case, then secretariat decisions are a natural development of what has been shared among the friends in the School, thus eliminating any sense of an ‘us and them’ mentality. It is simply Secretariat members acting upon what has been decided by the members of the School, they are in fact, the working arm of the Movement.


This being true, there are then two elements to the functioning of the School, the external and the internal.

The external deals with the method of the Movement itself. The Precursillo, the Cursillo weekend, the Postcursillo of Group Reunion and Ultreya, and finally the Secretariat.

When Eduardo came to Canada in 1992 he gave a Rollo entitled “Evangelization Through Conversion” and in it he said

‘the primary and essential role of the School of Leaders is to support the Ultreya’. Big news to many of us who heard it. He went on to say: “then, and in a quite secondary way, to train Cursillo team leaders and to organize and staff the secretariat, provide palanca, that every Cursillo demands”.

I am quoting Eduardo because I realize that for many of us here, this is not what we have thought the School was intended for. If we had in fact understood the proper function of the School, then there would not be a single Movement that didn’t have one.


The School is where the Ultreya is planned and perfected in the same manner that the weekend is planned and perfected. We need to strive towards an Ultreya that has the same atmosphere of joy and friendship, where the new Cursillistas see the possibilities that they heard about on the weekend as a lived reality as people share their lives with each other. It is important to understand the role that the School plays in the Ultreya.


Part of the responsibility of the School is also to assign the next Ultreya Leader and to evaluate the Ultreya just held . Did it accomplish its goal, was the Witness rollo effective, how can it be improved?

The members of the school are called to be the living witnesses to the message of the weekend.

This being true, the members of the School are also responsible for the new candidates. In my own experience in Canada there is a lot of discussion about the responsibilities of the sponsors but in actual fact, although it is the sponsors who bring the candidates to the weekend, once there, the team of Leaders takes over by virtue of the fact that it is the Leaders who give them the message. But, after the weekend, they are now Cursillistas and as such should be given the same offer of love and friendship as everybody else. They are not the responsibility of only the sponsors or the Leaders from the weekend but of every member of the School. They need the friendship of all to support and encourage them. For many of us this may be a new concept because we often lay all the responsibility at the feet of the sponsors, but in reality, we have told them that there is a group of friends that will be there for them. We, as Leaders, must do all that we can to ensure that this is true.


It is not the Leaders’ job to control the Group Reunions but it is their responsibility to witness to the value of them. If the Leaders do not show that the Group is an essential part of their own lives, it is impossible to give the new Cursillistas the truth of how necessary they are. We cannot give what we do not have. The Leaders must be willing to do what is necessary to facilitate and encourage the formation of Group Reunions among the new Cursillistas, even if it means belonging to more than one Group Reunion for a time being.


In the Precursillo the School is responsible for:
Selecting and preparing the team, not necessarily from those who are members of the School but from among those who
live the Ultreya and who can witness to the value of the Postcursillo.

Studying the Method. As already stated this is an essential part of growing together towards a unity of understanding.

Studying the technique. The Leader has an important role to play at the three days and learning to be an effective part of the Cursillo weekend is essential. The Leaders role on the three days is to facilitate the three encounters with Self, God, and Others, and this is not just giving a good Rollo. One on one dialogue with the Cursillistas, what they call in Mallorca, ‘corridor work’ is more important than what is said in the Rollos. The better we understand and use the technique, the better the Cursillistas will absorb the message.
Deciding when the Cursillo weekends will be held. As we have already said, the next weekend should not be planned to take place until the newest Cursillistas have been integrated into the existing community.
Palanca. Requesting and doing palanca. Not writing little notes but actually engaging in prayer and sacrifice.


The members of the School who are part of the secretariat are responsible for choosing the new Lay Director of the Movement.
Choosing new members of the secretariat

As I said previously, without a properly functioning School of Leaders the Secretariat members act alone and this may your experience here in Ottawa. As you can hopefully now see, with the Secretariat members being a part of and coming out of the School of Leaders there is a far greater collective wisdom to support their work.

The School should strive to provide what is necessary for its members to deepen and develop all the possibilities in their own criteria and to live in the spirit of the School of Leaders

The ideal for the School is that it should strive to increase and maintain the attitude of all members. This means that the School must provide all that is necessary to keep all the members feeling a sense of enthusiasm and fulfillment.

In the Study of the Environment Rollo we say that no-one can do everything, but all can do something. This recognizes that there are some who are better suited to think, others to serve, and others still to love. The idea again is for each individual to find a way to give his best in the way that he is able, though of course all are called to think, serve and love.

If the School is misunderstood and is not a place where all are equally involved in thinking, serving and loving, the members may go home with their notebooks full of someone else’s ideas but the proper goal for the School is that all go home with their heads full of ideas and their hearts on fire. In this way we will achieve what we all desire, our authentic happiness. We will feel inspired, motivated, and encouraged.

We have all experienced that enthusiasm and revitalization that comes from a great conversation where we have been listened to and have had an opportunity to not only listen but to participate fully in the debate. It’s as if new life has been poured into us. That is what the School is meant to be for each and every Leader. We should go home on fire and with a new sense of urgency and restlessness to act upon what we have ourselves been called to and enriched by the encounter with those friends.

Veteran Cursillistas
I noticed how interested they were
Respect and admiration, means listening even when you don’t agree for the sake of friendship
Enthusiasm and animation on the faces of the Mallorcan Cursillistas
Means of growth and perseverance

The effectiveness of the method

Everything in the method of Cursillo is simple. In it’s thinking and in its direction. The more we complicate things the further away from authenticity we move. Everything has been thought about and is directed towards facilitating the three encounters permanently:

With oneself, with Christ, with the brothers and sisters in Christ.
If this is not the way it is, it should be.

The method of teaching in Cursillo is never catechetical but always kerygmatic, meaning that the truth of the Gospel is seen to be lived in the lives of those who share its truth with us.

I would like to close this Rollo by again quoting Eduardo and again from his Rollo, Evangelization Through Conversion. I do this because nothing I can say is as profoundly simple as his words and they sum the whole topic up in one paragraph.

“The School of Leaders, is the gathering of those Cursillistas who are interested in the Movement itself and the perfecting of the method”….. “There is a final purpose of the School of Leaders, and that is to be the ‘nuclei of reflection’ on what Cursillo is and what it can or should be, in every aspect of the method, i.e Precursillo, Cursillo, and Postcursillo. Any other aim or goal that the School of Leaders takes on, even if it as praiseworthy as studying and promoting the Vatican documents, adult catechetics, filling pastoral necessities, or promoting specific evangelical projects, etc. IS NOT A PROPER ONE FOR THE SCHOOL OF LEADERS. The key to its success is that to the greatest extent possible, the leaders seek, though dialogue, to be of one mind, to provide a balanced focus on Pre, Weekend, and Postcursillo, and to do so in such a way that is authentic (that is, lived), and shared at a level and depth that is understandable and suitable for everybody. EB. “Evangelization Through Conversion”.

The leaders who serve the Movement in the secretariats and Schools of leaders can best be described as keepers of the flame of the vision of the Founder, keeping it burning brightly as a beacon for all those whose paths are illuminated by its light.
De Colores