Annual St. Paul’s Cursillo Communion Breakfast By Rich Grillo



Our annual Communion Breakfast took place on Saturday October 29th, at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, NY. One hundred twenty-four people gathered at    10:00 AM for a spirited Mass, given by Msgr. Bob Romano, concelebrated by Fr. Joe Holcomb. Both of whom had a huge impact on St. Paul’s Center throughout the years. It’s always nice to hear our anthem song, “God Don’t Make Junk,” delivered by an authentic cassette boom box! Old world style, as we did in days past. After Mass, we moved across the hall to a festive dining room setting, with delicious cakes and such. The breakfast was spectacular as always, and the company and sharing was even greater. Cursillistas come from all over, and from years back, to spend a few hours with like-minded people. Also attending are guests who were invited to come and experience a Cursillo Mass and Cursillo fraternity. Msgr. Bob was also our key note speaker, who spoke about his days on Humboldt Street working at St. Paul’s Center. Sharing funny and sincere stories made many of us smile, who knew what and whom he was speaking about. For those who didn‘t know his subjects, they were able to feel his passion for what he did through his years there. His humor was direct and candid and made us all smile. Coffee and cake ended our afternoon along with all the hugs and well wishes for one another. On the way out, guests had the opportunity to purchase Christian articles, such as books, mugs, bracelets, T-shirts—plus an array of gifts from Terri McHugh, who runs this for us. This day’s event could not be possible if it weren’t for the hard and diligent works from Pearse McDonnell and his co-chair,  Nancy Massaro.



Annual St. Paul’s Cursillo Communion Breakfast By Pearse McDonnell

This October 29, 2022, the St. Paul’s family once more had the opportunity to come together to attend Mass, to share a wonderful breakfast, to hear a guest speaker and to just be with each other at the annual Communion Breakfast. Held at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, Queens, 124 people joined together to celebrate their Cursillo experience and each other. There were men and women from Cursillos held 50 years ago, more current years and even this past spring.

Monsignor Robert Romano was the main celebrant and he was joined by Reverend Joseph Holcomb. Both of these wonderful priests are Cursillistas and have played major roles in the Brooklyn Diocese Cursillo programs since the 1970’s. It was great to see them both and a testament to just how long a person’s 4th Day can last.

It was such a wonderful experience for the St. Paul’s family. Many have not seen each other in person for years, in a large part due to the Covid pandemic and the reduced opportunities for face to face get togethers. People were able to not only catch up with each other but also to share their faith and their joy of past experiences with the St. Paul’s Cursillo program. Hopefully we will be able to participate in a Communion Breakfast in 2023.


Women’s 12-Step AA Recovery Retreat By Theresa McHugh

On October 21-23, the Women’s 12 Step A.A. Recovery Retreat was held at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY. This year’s theme was, “Prayers and Promises—A Journey of Discovery.” Nineteen women attended a weekend of talks and small group discussions relating to the prayers and promises found in our 12-Step literature, and that we are to receive as a result of living our sober lives based on spiritual principles.

It was a truly blessed weekend filled with hope, encouragement, love and laughter.

An intentional difference to most other AA weekends, this retreat enables the women to freely call their Higher Power by name: God/Jesus/Spirit, etc.

Mornings began, and evenings ended, with mediation, prayer, and music. There were opportunities to speak one-on-one with a Spiritual Director, and to attend a guided meditation. Some women elected to get creative and created their own Gratitude Jar. Some enjoyed the beautiful grounds of this sacred space for some quiet time.

We were blessed to have Fr. Michael Connolly join us and give a talk on Forgiveness, provide opportunity for Reconciliation, and celebrate Mass.

The team doing service and giving talks on the weekend were Christine V., Lisa B. and myself. Also, we had a walk-on talk given by Lisa E. on Friday night to start the program. Ann Marie D. stopped by on Saturday afternoon to lead a guided meditation.

A ton of gratitude for everyone who served!!!

Here are a few reflections, shared anonymously, in respect for our Traditions, by some of the women who attended:
“Dare I say…as always…life-changing.”
“I got more than I ever expected from this weekend.”
“Forgiveness stuff was so appropriate for me. I was able to put down the hammer and pick up the feather.”
“I got things this weekend I didn’t know I needed.”

Married Couples Evening of Renewal By Darlene & Mike McGovern

On Wednesday, November 30th, twelve couples took part in the Married Couples Evening of Renewal  Zoom Conferencing call. The theme was, “Generosity in Marriage.”

Jerry and Donna Wendelken spoke about how generosity is defined as small acts of kindness, displays of respect and affection, and a willingness to forgive one’s spouse. Generosity involves freely sacrificing time and emotional energy. They gave many examples of how spouses can show generosity to each other. Some examples are: give a compliment, hold hands, hand over the remote, go on a date, listen without interruptions, say thank you, kiss your spouse hello and goodbye. Those examples seem very simple but, without these gestures, marriage gets stale and leaves room for bitterness, miscommunication and frustration.

After Donna and Jerry spoke, we spoke about how the habit of generosity helps people move beyond their petty concerns, so they can give themselves more freely and cheerfully to each other. We shared personal experiences that we have dealt with during our marriage. Also, we spoke about extending grace and forgiveness in our marriage. The session ended with the words from Pope Francis, stating that we should say three things to each other daily: “Thank you. I am sorry. I love you.” The couples were encouraged to dance to the song, “Forever Like That,” by Ben Rector.

FYI: The next Married Couples Weekend will be held April 28-April 30, 2023, at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY. More details to follow.


Thanksgiving Message to the Men’s Cursillo Team By Jim Barker

“…the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you,”

“…blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”

Matthew 13:16


Every year at Thanksgiving it seems that I take just a short pause, to look at my life and scan over a “mountain of places” that I am so grateful for. All the gifts, abilities, and the Spirit that gives identity to who I am – the love of my wife and kids – my whole family and the friends who bless my life – the people – the places – the experiences – the gifts of this amazing earth and a vocation that allows me to work in it – and everything I need to live comfortably – just to mention a few… and at the very top of all that is my relationship with God, where it all comes from…

Many years ago, being a lot younger and thinking I could conquer the world at some point, becoming the king of this castle I thought I was creating, seemed like the mission ahead, and creating it was by my own ability and works.

Back then the places I was grateful for had much to do with me, and those places I was grateful for had a way of increasing the “false sense” of the image I carried of myself to the point of every gift, talent, and ability, was the work of “my hands.” And at the mention of anyone of those gifts would be a big “I”

I had the abilities, I created the opportunities, I was the one who worked for it, I was the one who thought of it, I, I, I… was the one to be praised…?     

Was it just me – or can you relate?

It sounds a lot like the society we live in today!

This year I took a closer look (and I always knew it – but it seems that I never really take the time to honor it) and asked the question: “When was the small kingdom of Jim I lived in back then (and sadly, still sometimes today), changed into the never-ending “life giving” Kingdom of God I find myself in today?

Listen carefully, this is where you become part of the story of who I am today…

As I share in one of my talks on the Cursillo weekend: “there’s a bold mark on the timeline of my life; it’s titled “new life in God” or as we know it – Cursillo!

That weekend changed everything in my life…  

It changed my perception – it gave me new eyes – it opened my mind and heart like never before… it was the gift of a major “reset” in how I was going to direct my life from that point on… God was always pouring His love out for me, but now I knew it, now I could see it, and now I could start living this reality…

And the amazing thing about God’s love, as I’ve come to a greater understanding of it, is it continues to change me every day if I allow it… and all of you are part of that for which I give thanks to God over and over again…

Everything forward of that bold mark in my life has been made new, awakened, strengthened… fears have turned into faith and courage – the unknown has given me a greater patience and a stronger will – and the love I feel from God has strengthened and sustained me, filling my life with faith and hope in His  promises… His love is like no other…

Today, the gratitude in my life is pointed in the direction of our God who has always given me everything I just mentioned and more, and continues today to be the biggest giver I’ve ever known…

He loves me in a crazy way…!

And through the Cursillo He shows me that love in a special way, finding in each one of you the friendship and love we share with each other today.

Relationships that offer the encouragement, strength, and support to stay the course – to live out the journey together – because after all, we were never meant to journey it alone…

This is God’s plan for us, working alongside one another, each with our own uniqueness, to change the hearts and minds of the people who seek a relationship and a way of life in God’s Kingdom here on earth…

It’s the only place to live!      

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I have to say what I just said to be mindful of this reality of God’s love in my life, and to keep it fresh in my heart and mind, to remember who I was before my Cursillo – and who I am today as a result of that “mystery weekend” I found myself on…

The Cursillo breathes life into the lifeless, and I so believe, especially right now in these times we are all facing, that we are called by God to keep the Cursillo – this amazing experience of God’s love, fully alive and available to anyone who may be thirsting for the hope and the peace found nowhere else, but in a relationship of intimacy and love with God…

This is the gift of the Cursillo experience.

And I just want you to know that I feel so blessed by each one of you, for all you are and all you give, each with great desire to share this amazing gift of Cursillo…

You continue to be part of the process God is using to shape me into the authentic man He always intended me to be…

The new Jim looks so much better than the old Jim!

So, gentlemen, pray with me, that God continues to use us in this most extraordinary way, to place in us whatever is needed, to invite, and to call people out into this amazing relationship God so desires to have with each one of us…     

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…   James 1:17

Together, let’s continue to live as gifts from above, freely given with the love of God in each one of us…






Perpetual Palanca—A December Reflection By Sr. Marie Mackey, CSJ

We are all familiar with the term, “Palanca” and its importance on a “Weekend.” I have come to realize that Palanca is not an event occurring a few times a year—but rather a way of being, a lifestyle that can be experienced or offered anytime, anywhere and for any length of time. Sometimes in comes in spurts and sometimes it is dormant for years until circumstances align and we are called to respond and model the self-emptying love of Jesus. Sometimes, we are the one offering Palanca and at other times we are the recipients of the power of God’s love and sacrifice in action. In rare circumstances, the two are happening simultaneously.

I have spent the last four years being responsible for an elderly aunt. The past year has been a challenge, primarily due to the fact that my aunt lived in NJ. I could always count on a minimum 90-minute ride (one way) provided there was no traffic. Typically, it could be two hours or more. During these past 15 months, my aunt’s needs were becoming more obvious and time consuming. The energy I was expending was not being replaced in equal amounts. My anxiety was curtailed by a friend who lived 6 miles away from my aunt. Initially, I could count on her to check in with my aunt and do food shopping for her.

As my aunt’s health deteriorated, my friend offered me to stay at her apartment instead of commuting back and forth from New York to New Jersey. She listened to my frustration and kept me well fed. Finally, in the midst of what was to be the beginning of the end for my aunt, my friend took charge as I was sick with fever, bronchitis and sinusitis, unable to drive from Queens. In a dramatic turn of events, police had to break down my aunt’s front door in order for the paramedics to take her to the hospital. My friend followed the ambulance to the hospital and, once in the Emergency Room, asked the doctor to call me.

In the meantime, the dam broke as I sobbed unconsolably for an hour. My helplessness reached its peak. I had given everything I had in me to be in service to my aunt and at that moment I was spent. At the same time, God provided me with a generous, competent, funny and, at times, irreverent angel in the person of Mari-Celeste Massaro. Mari-Celeste had recently served as caregiver to a friend who had recently died and now, she was     sacrificing for me. Despite her grief, she saw me through my agony. It dawned on me that this was Palanca and it was perpetual. Palanca is not about a Weekend of simple sacrifices— it’s about responding to the messiness of life and death, time and time again over the course of a lifetime.

As we celebrate Christmas, the Incarnation of our God, let us remember that God is with us in the messiness and confusion of life. Jesus chose perpetual Palanca from his birth in a stable to his death on a cross and everything in between.


The Connection (A Christmas story) By Rachel Calantjis

She brushed the snow off her gray wool coat as she hurried into her apartment building lobby. The doorman greeted her with a warm smile and she returned the greeting as she made her way up the three flights of stairs to her apartment. She could smell the freshly baked scent of sugar cookies fill the air, as she guessed this delightful scent was coming from Mrs. Granger’s apartment. Christmas was tomorrow and she felt the holiday spirit all around town. Mr. Linden, the butcher, had given her an extra piece of ham, as he made jovial small talk in his tiny store. Mrs. Jennings, her close neighbor, offered her a warm knitted scarf as a gift for this festive holiday. And a warm thought crossed her mind, as she remembered being in church the past Sunday and the pastor giving out sugar canes to the children. 

She unlocked the door to her small railroad flat and hurried inside. It was warm as the pipes hissed the sound of heat coming into the flat. She took off her wool coat and her hat and glanced into the foyer mirror. Her long blond hair was ruffled and she could see that her blue eyes looked tired. She had just passed her thirtieth birthday, with a big party her parents had given her. It was a festive party, with relatives, birthday cake and presents. She was truly blessed. Now all she had to do was find a husband and her life would be complete, she thought, as she made a pout smile into the mirror as it reflected back at her. She giggled to herself like a child, as she thought about tomorrow and the kinship she felt with her family. 

Yes, it was a special time of year. Tomorrow morning she would gather up the small gifts for her parents and visit them for a special turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Her mother always made Christmas very special, since Mary was a little child, she had fond memories of many wonderful holidays. Her mother will no doubt have those special chocolate candies, the ones with delightful white sprinkles. Then a sudden thought of sadness rushed through her mind. What about those who can’t afford Christmas? What about those families who are seeing hard times? She had heard that many families were going to gather at the food kitchen on Bleeker Street for their Christmas dinner. She prayed the butcher and other storekeepers were especially charitable to those folks. She knew, however, that this was all in God’s competent hands and such matters are better left to the, “Big Boss.” But she couldn’t help feeling fortunate. She had a decent job at Kaufman’s law firm assisting the owner, a roof over her head, and food on the table. Many were not as fortunate as she was. What could she do to help those in need? She truly wanted to help those who were not as fortunate as she was. After deep contemplation, Mary decided to go out to the food kitchen at the other end of town and see if she could help in some way. She went to her cupboard and saw that it was sparsely stocked. But nonetheless, Mary grabbed a jar of strawberry preserves her mother had given her, dropped it into a bag, grabbed her wool coat, her scarf and hat, and darted out the door and ran down the three flights of stairs.

She hurried outside and into the snowy cold air as she made her way through the cobble stone street to the trolley car that just happen to stop simultaneously as she stepped onto the curb. She made her way in and noticed an old man stooped over, barely able to hold onto the trolley pole, as it made its way through the snowy cobblestone streets. She couldn’t help noticing he had a terrible disgruntled look on his face. His black tattered coat was well worn, but clean, and his boots looked as if they saw better days. He did, however, seem to have a new black scarf wrapped around his neck. He was mumbling about needing to get to the general store before the store closed,   making hand gestures as he thought out loud. How odd, she thought, that this elderly man is brave enough to confront the elements to get to the grocer on Christmas Eve. And she thought she heard the word preserves, but might have been mistaken. He must really be in need of food and maybe he is poor and lonely, she thought. At that very moment, her eyes met his. They were dark, lonely, eyes that spoke to her. She could see the pain of years of loneliness. She could also see in his eyes the glaring power of a worried look. He has seen very hard times in his day, she thought. She had this gift, the same one her father had, where she could read peoples eyes; not all the time, but most times. She could tell this man was not happy. She smiled warmly at him hoping that he would feel the spirit of the season and for a brief second a wry smile appeared on his face and then disappeared as he made his way off the trolley. Mary decided to follow him to the grocer and see what he needed. Maybe she could help one individual    tonight instead of going to the food kitchen where folks were sure to be helped. She didn’t have that much money on her, maybe twenty-five cents, but that did not deter her from her charitable mission.

She hurried off the trolley and made her way towards the general store, on a mission of mercy. She felt the icy cold wind sting her face and the stone cold pavement against her boots. She was happy to step into the store where it was warm and dry. She watched as the old man made his way around the store and she saw him pick up a few items. He put a small ham on the counter, along with bread, and a jar of strawberry preserves. It looked as if he would have bread and preserves for Christmas breakfast and ham for dinner; a sparse breakfast indeed, she thought. 

The storeowner, a burly looking man, made some small talk with the old man as he announced that the total of his purchase was fifty-nine cents. The man put his hand in his pocket and came up with forty cents. “You are nineteen cents short,” announced the storeowner who did not seem to have a charitable bone in his body. “Times are hard for all of us” he continued. “I could give you credit, but you already owe me twenty cents from your last purchase. I am sorry.” The elderly man looked embarrassed and upset as he decided to put the strawberry preserves back on the shelf. 

Mary could not believe what was happening, as she reached into the bag and handed the man the jar of strawberry preserves. “Please take this,” she said. “It is my gift to you for Christmas.”

The elderly man looked quite puzzled and for an awkward moment there was silence. He then responded by saying, “Dear lady, who are you and do you always walk around with a jar of strawberry preserve in your bag?” The man seemed very confused. 

“No, actually I was on my way to donate it to the food kitchen, but I found a better use for it so please take it,” Mary replied. 

The man was puzzled by this sudden turn of events and felt as if something much more important was taking place at this very moment in time. He felt a warm spirit of generosity and it was piercing his heart with much comfort. He was reluctant to accept the gift, but he looked into the young ladies eyes and could see that it meant more for her to give the gift than it meant for him to receive it. He could read her heart, it was a gift. 

After a few uncomfortable silent seconds the elderly man smiled and said to Mary, “Dear lady I will accept your gift and say thank you. This is very kind and generous of you. Merry Christmas and God bless you.”

Mary felt this sudden feeling of luminescence fill her heart with joy and she gave a silent thank you to God for this glorious encounter. She smiled warmly at the elderly man and chanted, “Merry Christmas to you and may God bless you abundantly.”

The man walked out of the store with a look of bewilderment on his face. Mary turned to the storeowner and said. “Here is the twenty cents the man owes you.” He looked at her, scratched his head, took the money, and walked to the back of the store where a woman was beckoning him to come and help her with her purchase. 

Mary walked out of the store feeling the spirit of Christmas all around her, but most of all within her soul. Her heart was filled with His peace and joy. This was what Christmas was all about, she thought, as she got back on the trolley car. It was about giving, caring and sharing. It was about love; the kind of love that is unconditional for all humanity, not just family and friends. It was about being human. 

She knew she would probably never see this old man again. She didn’t even know his name, but she did know that the two of them connected into a spirit of generosity and kindness tonight on this special Christmas Eve, and no matter what happens in her lifetime, that will always carry around in her heart. 


WOWWOWWOW By Mario Cannariato

I have always prayed for the success of the candidates before working on a Cursillo weekend – that they be as ready and receptive to our program as we all are. I am sure, I have never seen a Cursillo weekend start off as smooth as the 232nd did. It is possible that the Team members, the Angels, Spiritual Team members have experienced that, but I have not. For me, the weekend always seems to start off with a great deal of uncertainty (and a bit more apprehension) than I witnessed on this particular weekend.

Nevertheless, I knew that this weekend would be extraordinarily special for me. My son, Matthew, was making his beautiful Cursillo weekend. Personally, I started my day going to 9:00 AM Mass to pray for the Men of the 232nd Cursillo. I found myself picking up dry cleaning after Mass, holding hands with Charlie, the owner, praying for my son and all the Men of the 232. Yes, Thursday morning started off pretty good so far. Realizing that Matthew’s weekend would be in God’s hands, I knew I would have to distance myself from feelings, questions, or involvement with the success or failure of his experience. “God, You got this,” was going to be my mantra.

I left my home at 3:00 PM to pick up one of the candidates who, unfortunately, was experiencing car trouble. After scooping up Ray, I met with Angel Tim out in Farmingdale, to have dinner before heading up to Huntington for the start of the weekend. As I walked through the doors of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, Rich Grillo (our all-knowing loving oracle) was seated at his post at the Greeter Table – and the miracle begins. I was embraced by Steve Hernandez, who told me that we would be working a table together: the St. Joseph’s Table. Steve was a candidate on my table when he made his weekend. Our packets, with schedules and instructions, were handed to us – our table candidates were revealed to us. Brian Cavallo, our Rector for this weekend, delivered a message that began ringing in my head. He was dedicating this weekend to his recently departed-for-paradise Mom. This was my first WOW.

It struck me that it was a great team of horses being led to the starting gates of the Cursillo Derby. An amazing Angel Team was assembled; an amazing Table Team was assembled; an ALL-STAR SPIRITUAL TEAM was assembled with Joe Amato, Bob Monahan, Tom Butler, and super star Jimmy Barker. Our person holding the lever to begin the race into Jesus’s arms was Fr. Richard Zuk, who was with us the entire weekend. Fr. Rich blessed us with his undivided direction, love, wonderful warmth with faith, and his spectacular, contagious, contagious SMILE. My second WOW…

Most important was the weekend Candidates. These men were the Jockeys on their spiritual horses. Some, as on every weekend, reluctantly mounted their spiritual horses awaiting the start of the 232nd Cursillo. Once the lever was pulled (and especially I), we were off with these men, riding us into the arms of Jesus. Fr. Zuk joked at his first Mass for us that, “Maybe you will be drinking the Kool Aid.”

My gosh, by midday Friday (to my complete astonishment), my table with Steve Hernandez was beginning to show signs of being on fire. Steve and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and said, “So it begins.” We looked around at the other tables and, sure enough, the whole room was buzzing. After Reactions on Friday night, I was overwhelmed with how receptive the Men of the 232 were. THEY ALL COMPLETELY TOOK OFF FLYING DOWN THE TRACK TO JESUS’S ARMS. Thank you once again, Fr. Zuk, for pulling that lever that allowed this amazing spiritual group of men to want this gift we were presenting to them, and for us to witness it so early in their weekend. This truly is what we (on this God given mission) pray for, yet it was happening so soon. I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude, as did (I am sure) all of the Team on this Cursillo mission. When all our Men of 232 stood and gave Fr. Zuk a long-standing ovation at the final Mass of the weekend, it was the cherry on top of the closing Sunday.

On a personal note, I thought I would lose it emotionally many times on the weekend as my beautiful son was fulfilling a lifelong prayer of mine in making a Cursillo. I managed to contain myself right up to the last moment when Jim Barker presented my Matthew with his final gift of the weekend. All Cursillistas know what that gift is.

IT’S JESUS IN OUR LIVES  – My Lord Jesus, You never fail me = WOW WOW WOW












Last fall, I thought it might be nice to try to upgrade the landscaping in my front yard with the purchase of a small tree. The attached card said that it was easy to care for and it would bloom all summer long with an abundance of white flowers. Gardening is a favorite pastime of mine. It makes it seem as if I am closer to God and I am reminded of His presence as I arrange His beautiful flowers and plants. This little tree was just what I was looking for and I carefully planted it and looked forward to the color and beauty that it would bring this spring. 

As the calendar turned to May, when all the other shrubs and flowers were beginning to bud, there was no sign of life in the new tree. I checked it each day and came away convinced that it had not survived the winter. I was disappointed and I planned to dig it up and discard it. I went to several nurseries in an attempt to purchase a    replacement, but none were available. I was resigned to the probability that a replacement would be hard to find and I would not get to enjoy the natural beauty that the tree would have provided. 

Suddenly, about the third week of May, I noticed the tiniest sliver of green on one of the branches. This fragile creation of nature had survived after all and was coming to life! 

As I have watched it slowly generate its leaves and begin to flourish, it has made me realize how easy it is to give up prematurely on something that is important to us. Have you ever begun to doubt your prayers for a special  intention because time had passed and you did not feel that God was going to grant it to you? Did you ever wonder why an all merciful and loving God would not provide an answer to your prayers? I have. 

My prayers have been offered over a period of years for a special intention that is very special and personal to me. There are times when I have sat in a chapel and just tried to listen for an answer, but heard only silence. It has been long enough that my hope has begun to  waver. Maybe the Lord has other plans, but I   cannot imagine what they might be. So, I go on and continue my prayers, but each day it seems that I feel more discouraged that the Lord may not bring me what I so want Him to. 

As this small tree in my front yard continues to grow and thrive after I had given up on it, it has encouraged me not to give up on God either. He may not    always give us what we want in the manner and the time frame that we would like, but, just as this tiny tree has renewed itself, so too, will answers to our prayers make themselves present in God’s time.  

This is the season of year when we are surrounded with the splendor of nature as the flowers and plants come alive in all their vibrant colors. It is also a time to  renew our faith in the mercy and love of our God and be confident again that He will minister to us and comfort us in our needs. My pretty new tree will be my   constant reminder to never, never give up on God.