50th Anniversary

Via de Cristo’s 50th Anniversary

Looking forward – by looking back

Have you ever stumbled across an old journal or photos and found yourself recalling things you’d forgotten about? While we can’t live in the past, sometimes it is helpful to remember how things were and be reminded of good habits or ideas that might have been forgotten over time. And that’s the purpose of this 50th Anniversary page. 

Since the first Lutheran Cursillo weekends were held in Florida and Iowa, this movement has spread across the country and impacted the lives of tens of thousands of Christians of all denominations. While some of our practices may have changed over that time, the essential spirit and mission of Via de Cristo remains unchanged:

By grace, with the Holy Spirit, we challenge leaders to discover and achieve their personal calling, assisting them to influence their environments with the Gospel.

Iowa VDC/Florida Sonshine Via de Cristo South

The Lutheran Cursillo (as it was originally called) started simultaneously and independently in both Iowa and Florida. In 2011, both Secretariats shared their early history. Read on to see how the Holy Spirit started these movements, how they spread and eventually merged to form the National Lutheran Secretariat of Via de Cristo. Notice that many participants resisted the call initially – but then became enthusiastic once they experienced Cursillo. We owe a debt of gratitude to our Catholic brethren who helped us get started in both states. The same spirit that motivated these early movements is alive today in 44 Secretariats!

Luther Piel Memorial

 On January 15, 2022, Luther Piel, one of the first leaders of Via de Cristo, finally “went home” to his Father. As we celebrate 50 years of Via de Cristo, it is good to reflect on the life of a man who helped share this gift with all of us.

Memories, by Luther Piel

In 2011, Luther Piel shared his memories of being elected as the first national President of the Lutheran Cursillo. His humbleness and humor shine through, but Luther was one of the key leaders who helped make Via de Cristo a national movement. Read below to learn about some of the other early leaders of Via de Cristo. You can find a memorial article on Luther elsewhere in this newsletter.

Remembering a Beginning

Pastor Ed Simonsen is one of the pillars of Via de Cristo. Having served on more than 100 VdC weekends, including the first weekends in 20 different secretariats, Pastor Ed was also the first national Spiritual Director for the Lutheran Cursillo. In 2011, he shared some of his memories of those earliest days, as the Florida and Iowa Cursillo communities became aware of one another

1996 interview with Eduardo Bonin, a founder of Cursillo

In 1996, Eduardo Bonnin, one of the founders of Cursillo, traveled to Florida to attend a meeting of leaders of 4th day communities. He gave an extensive talk about the origins and philosophy of Cursillo. Fortunately, someone captured what he said and published his remarks. This is a wonderful treasury of insight into the conditions under which Cursillo was started, what they were trying to achieve, and why it worked. Take time to read this over carefully – there are many nuggets of wisdom in here. Take time to reflect in what ways is our world the same as it was then? Cursillo succeeded in spite of opposition – and can do so today!

1st Annual Gathering Announcement
(Referred to in the document as a reminder)

The very first Annual Gathering was held in January 1981, only 9 years after the start of Lutheran Cursillo. Although much smaller and simpler than Annual Gatherings today, the objectives have remained consistent: worshipping, comparing notes and building community, and taking care of corporate business. You can see in this agenda how we got started and how some topics remain just as important today as they were 40 years ago.

NLS Newsletter V1, No 1 – Spring 1982

Take a look at the first official newsletter of the National Lutheran Secretariat, published in the spring of 1982, only 10 years after Lutheran Cursillo started. Here are some wonderful articles to encourage us and remind us that the Holy Spirit was and still is at work in this movement.

1st Prison Cursillo

Greg Steele, one of the first presidents of Lutheran Cursillo, also served on the first team to hold a ecumenical Cursillo in a Florida prison in 1976. He later wrote a detailed description of what that weekend was like. Read this wonderful, undated report describing how the team came together, what happened on the weekend – but most of all, about how that weekend impacted both the team and the pilgrims. His report reminds us that we can still have this same impact today.

Prison Palanca Letter

In October, 1976, the first ecumenical Cursillo was held at the Union Correctional Institute in Raiford, Florida. This letter, translated from German, was received as palanca for that weekend. Imagine how this letter was received by those pilgrims who were prisoners. The words remind us all of the impact our weekends have in the lives of our guests – whether in prison or not.