By Jorge Dominguez
More than 2,000 members of the Cursillo movement from Brooklyn and Queens participated in the ‘ultreya,’ or pilgrimage, to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pa., Saturday, June 10.
“‘Ultreya’ means ‘go ahead,” says Hilda Cerrero, a Cursillista from Holy Child Jesus parish, Richmond Hill. “It was used among the pilgrims when they were traveling the St. James Way in Spain. They used to yell at each other ‘Ultreya! Ultreya!’ meaning, go forward. That is the meaning of word ultreya.”
According to Cerrero, ultreya has a special meaning for the members of the movement. “When Cursillistas get together, they call it an ultreya. We have those meetings every week in our parishes, but today everybody gets together in this ultreya at the beautiful shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.”
The Cursillistas traveled two hours on 40 buses from Brooklyn and Queens to Doylestown for a day of prayer and celebration. The huge upper church was full to capacity at the 11:30 a.m. Mass celebrated in Spanish by Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros. Eleven priests concelebrated the Eucharist with him, assisted by four deacons.
Foundation of Ministry
The Cursillo movement has been the flagship of the Hispanic pastoral ministry in the diocese for half a century.
“It began with the Puerto Ricans, then with the Dominicans, and now with the Ecuadorians, Mexicans, Colombians, people from everywhere,” Bishop Cisneros said. “When there was no Hispanic Ministry in the diocese, the Cursillo was there in the homes, in the streets, bringing people in.
“Now we have more groups, we have more movements that care for the evangelization. But we also have more immigrants that are coming, and they need the ministry, the presence of the lay person that gives them what we all need so much, a helping hand, and the hope that only Christ can gives us,” he said.
During his homily to the Cursillistas, Bishop Cisneros reflected on the fact that June 9 was the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“The heart is the symbol of love, but it is also the symbol of everything that is important, may it be pain, may it be sorrow, of everything that makes us who we are as human beings,” Bishop Cisneros said.
“So as we celebrate this feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I cannot but point out to the people how we must unite ourselves to the hearts of Mary and Jesus, and how in our own lives we find the joy of the Cursillo, the joy of our faith, of knowing Jesus, but also we have the pain and the sorrows we also carry in our hearts.”
One of the concelebrants was Msgr. Perfecto Vázquez. At 85, the spiritual director of the Cursillo movement in the diocese is one of its driving forces.
“It is a joy to see so many Cursillistas together, especially because of their commitment. The goal of belonging to the Cursillo movement is to become better Christians. And this encourages them to be more dedicated to the movement,” said Msgr. Vazquez.
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Cisneros paid homage to the monsignor. “Since his retirement he has been working more than ever,” explained the bishop. “He could have chosen to spend time resting and enjoying the wonderful cheeses and wines of his native Galicia, but he preferred to keep working tirelessly for the evangelization of Hispanics and for his beloved Cursillo movement.” His words were followed by a loud ovation from the faithful.
After the Mass, the Cursillistas shared a massive picnic on the Shrine’s spacious grounds. At dozens of folding tables under the trees, attendees could find all the dishes and treats the rich Latin American cuisine can offer. The children played soccer while the adults shared food and stories.
Bringing Family Together
“Sometimes we need to bring all the family together,” said Fayez Salloum, the lay director of the movement.
“That’s why we have two events every year for that purpose – the Ultreya Diocesana, which is held at a parish in Brooklyn, and the Ultreya de Campo, like this one today, when we go somewhere out of the city. We bring the families together to share time, to share prayers, to feel like a big family.”
It was indeed a picture-perfect day for an ‘ultreya de campo’ at the national shrine, located on Beacon Hill, overlooking Peace Valley. The shrine’s compound includes two churches, a cemetery, a retreat house, a visitor’s center and several other buildings and gardens on 170 acres of land.
For Salloum, a member of St. Teresa parish, Woodside, this ultreya was the last big event of his tenure, since the Cursillistas will elect a new leadership team next month.
Minority of One
In an overwhelmingly Hispanic community, he is a minority of one. “I am the only Lebanese, the only Arabic (-speaking) Cursillista. Everybody else is Hispanic. But for the grace of God, they chose me to be their lay director. I think I did all I could do. I will be done (as director) at the end of this month. I tried to do my best for the movement.”
He was obviously satisfied with the last event of his tenure, and not just because of the fine organization and the perfect weather.
“The Mass today was beautiful, you could feel the presence of God in the faces of the people, in the choir, you could tell Jesus was present,” said Salloum.
“This day is meaningful for the Cursillistas in the Diocese of Brooklyn on many levels,” said Bishop Cisneros. “The first is the joy of coming together, the joy of leaving Brooklyn to come to this place in Pennsylvania where our Blessed Mother is honored, Our Lady of Czestochowa, to see a little bit of green, to have a picnic, to enjoy themselves outside the city.
“That’s at a very human level. But there is another level, that of pilgrimage. They come not just to see trees, but they come to seek out the Blessed Mother, her shrine in this bucolic atmosphere, and to venerate our Blessed Mother, and to be one with her, to receive the Holy Eucharist.
“Another level for this is also that they come to commit themselves to what the Cursillo stands for, to commit themselves as a larger family.”
Maribel Quintero, of St. Athanasius parish, Bensonhurst, and a member of the leadership in charge of special events, is a good example of that commitment. This ultreya was the last event she was organizing for Cursillos.
“I have been working non-stop since four this morning,” she said with a smile. “I love the Cursillo movement and I would do anything for it because it has strengthened my faith in Jesus Christ.”