Father Sebastián Gaya, initiator of the Cursillo (short course) in Christianity, together with St. John Paul II. / Photo credit: Sebastián Gayá Foundation
Denver Newsroom, Sep 13, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
The Archdiocese of Madrid has begun the diocesan phase of the canonization process for Father Sebastián Gayá, one of the main developers of the Cursillo (short course) in Christianity, an ecclesial movement that had its beginnings in Spain in the 1940s and today has spread throughout the world.
Gayá was born on the island of Mallorca in 1913. After a few years in Argentina, where his parents had emigrated, he returned to Spain in 1926 to pursue his priestly vocation and entered the seminary in Palma de Mallorca.
Considered the main person who formulated the Cursillo, Gayá was ordained in the midst of the Spanish Civil War on May 22, 1937. Within the context of Catholic Action, he launched a new method of announcing the Gospel in the 1940s.
In the preparatory phase for the Great National Youth Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela that took place in 1948, other formats of Christian spiritual revival were developed that, adapted and modified, led to the Cursillo in Christianity.
The first Cursillo, certified as such by the Vatican, was held at the Monastery of San Honorato in Mallorca on the weekend of Jan. 7–10, 1949. It was the first of the initial 20 and, only five years later, 100 Cursillos had been given.
Transferred to Madrid in 1957, Gayá recommended that many priests should give the Cursillo, preparing them for the pastoral care of the Spanish emigrant population in those years, a circumstance that led to the international expansion of the Cursillo.
In Latin America, the first country to receive this new method of evangelization was Colombia. A decade later it was already present on practically the entire continent.
The Cursillo expanded to Europe first in Portugal, Austria, and Italy in 1960 and was brought to Eastern Europe beginning in 1974. The Cursillo came from the United States to the Philippines in 1962. In Africa, the movement has reached countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Togo.
In 2004, the Pontifical Council for the Laity recognized the World Organization of the Cursillo Movement as “a structure for the coordination, promotion, and dissemination of the experience of the Cursillos in Christianity, having the character of a private legal entity” and “the approval of the statute of the aforementioned organization.”
“Raise the banner of hope every morning,” Gayá encouraged wherever he went. He chose as his priestly motto “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Appointed honorary prelate by the pope in 2005, Gayá died at the age of 94 in Mallorca. His remains rest in the Monastery of San Honorato, where the first Cursillo was given.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.