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HISTORY: Cursillo in the Evansville Diocese






In 1970, Fr. Bill Lautner, a priest in the Evansville diocese, was invited to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to learn about the Cursillo movement.

In 1971, Frs. Bill Lautner, Gene Heerdink, Jay Davidson, and Syl Schroeder made Owensboro Cursillo #5.

In 1972, Bishop Shea (of the Evansville diocese), Frs. Joe Clause, Jim Lex, Ralph Schipp, and Bob Wannemuehler made Owensboro Cursillo #8.

On their return from their Cursillos, they each began actively inviting parishioners and others in the diocese to make Cursillo in Owensboro, KY, in order to start the Cursillo movement in Evansville, IN.  Fr. Gene Heerdink was especially active in inviting his parishioners at St. Matthew in Mt. Vernon, IN, and parishioners and friends from other parishes.

The first men’s and women’s weekends in the Evansville diocese were in February and March of 1974, and were held in the Catholic Center. Meals and talks were in the room that is now called Celebration Hall. There was a kitchen attached to that room where meals were prepared. The team and candidates slept on bunkbeds in a large room upstairs that is now the diocesan offices. Bishop Shea let them use the facilities at no charge. The team was from Owensboro, with some Cursillistas from Mt. Vernon and Evansville assisting to learn how to be future team members.

The second set of weekends were in June and July of 1975. There had been a new bishop installed and he wanted to charge for the use of the Catholic Center. Because there was no money in the treasury yet,  the weekends were held in the gym at St. Matthew in Mt. Vernon, IN. The gym was divided into three separate areas with large, black plastic sheets: one area for eating, one for talks, and one for sleeping. They slept on cots that were borrowed from Owensboro. It was a hot summer and there was no air conditioning.
The third set of weekends were back in the Catholic Center, and then all subsequent weekends were held in the Sarto Retreat House.

There have been changes to the weekend schedule over the years. For many years the schedule for the days were much longer than they are now. The final meal on Sunday evening was around 5-5:30pm. 

At that time, Talk Support was called Critique Day and was an all-day event. All the talks were given in the same room in sequence.


A Cursillista from Evansville, Janet Moore, who had worked many teams and was Rectora (Coordinator) here, had moved to Louisville and had become involved with their movement. She developed the mentor program and JoAnn Schlachter, former Lay Director of the Evansville Secretariat, brought the idea back to the Evansville Secretariat. A workshop was held with Janet presenting how the program worked and it was decided that the mentor program was needed in our diocese.

When JoAnn Schlachter was Lay Director, she attended several Regional and National Cursillo meetings and learned that our diocese was the only one that had 3 Spiritual Advisors, all whom were priests, attending team formations and who stayed the entire Cursillo weekend. With the shortage of priests in our diocese, this needed to be changed to only 2 priests, adding a deacon or religious sister to fill the third Spiritual Advisor position. The priests, whom without them we would not be able to celebrate the sacraments at every Cursillo weekend, are truly the backbone of our movement. We are so very blessed to have the dedication and involvement of the priests, deacons, and religious in our diocese.

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