Drawing closer to God through trilingual Grand Ultreya celebration

by Marty Sabota

North Texas Catholic

May 26, 2018

Tony Perez plays guitar during the Grand Ultreya celebration on Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Arlington. The trilingual celebration was organized for participants in the Fort Worth Diocese's Cursillo movement. (NTC photo/Kevin Bartram)


ARLINGTON As a “boat person” fleeing South Vietnam at 10 years old in 1980, Nga Nguyen said her family of seven had little but their faith to cling to as they faced perils such as pirates from Thailand en route to their new home in Port Arthur.

Now 49 and the mother of four living in Grapevine, Nguyen is always seeking ways to celebrate and deepen her faith.

So on May 20, Nguyen was one of the faithful who participated in a diocesan-sponsored Grand Ultreya celebration. The four-hour program was held at Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Arlington. The trilingual celebration included talks in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

“This is really exciting,” said Chris Flemister, English Cursillo lay director for the movement in the diocese. “This is the first time we have hosted English, Spanish, and Vietnamese together in one place.”

Added Nguyen, “We come together in sharing our faith.”

Ultreya is a Spanish word, derived from the original Latin, meaning ‘onward.’ It was in common use by pilgrims to greet and to encourage one another along the way.

Today, the Ultreya is a gathering of people in a climate of friendship where members share their life experiences based on the tenets of Cursillo life: prayer, study, and action.

Ultreya is a call to move forward and to keep the flame of the Cursillo burning brightly. Cursillo is short for Cursillo de Christiandad, a short course in Christian living, and is designed to open participants up to a deeper relationship with Christ and present a method of Christian living “so we can make a difference for Christ in the world around us,” Flemister said.

Flemister, a parishioner at St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills, made his first Cursillo in 1990 in Fort Worth.

“It helped me be a better father and husband,” said Flemister, 62, the father of two whose wife, Denise, made her first Cursillo in 1989 in Fort Worth.

“In three days, you find out that God loves you very much,” the lay minister said. “It clarifies what you have heard for 50 years. You go, ‘Oh. That’s what you mean.’”

April Martin and others participate in small group discussions during the Grand Ultreya celebration on Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Arlington. The trilingual celebration was organized for participants in the Fort Worth Diocese's Cursillo movement. (NTC photo/Kevin Bartram)


Flemister, a public safety telecommunications specialist for Baylor, Scott & White Health, said the Cursillo movement came to Fort Worth in the 1980s. 

Cursillo was founded in Majorca, Spain, by a group of laymen in 1944. Rooted in solid Catholic teaching, the sacraments, and the call to witness to Christ by living holy lives, the Cursillo grew into a movement that began to spread: first to Latin America, then to the Spanish and English-speaking populations in the United States and Canada.

The first Cursillo in the United States was presented in Spanish to a group in Waco in 1957. In the Diocese of Fort Worth, Cursillos are offered in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Coordinators of the Ultreya trilingual celebration on May 20 were Flemister; Victor Garcia, Spanish Cursillo lay director; and Mary Banh, Vietnamese Cursillo lay director.

The day included cross-cultural fellowship and witness talks, as well as singing and praying.

Bahn’s sister, Nga Nguyen, a member of St. Michael Parish in Bedford, represented the Vietnamese community.

Nguyen, a cradle Catholic who made her first Cursillo in Dallas in 2013, recalled how it affected her life.

“By trade I am a pharmacist,” she said, and her work “is very much a go ‘by the book’ type of model.”

After her Cursillo retreat, her model shifted to “‘by the Gospel,’ so that I can live out the fundamental of the baptismal call by putting the Gospel and my faith into action at the workplace.”

Her friend, Theresa Nguyen, a parishioner at Vietnamese Martyrs who made her first Cursillo in Fort Worth in 2016, said the celebration allowed her to share her joy in her faith with others.

“If you trust in God, you can see happiness everywhere and from every angle,” the 58-year-old parishioner said.  “I encourage you to live your faith and you will be happy.”

The witness talks ended with a message from Father Hoa Nguyen, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth.

“We thank the Lord for this opportunity to come together,” the pastor said. “The power of the Gospel can transform the world.”

ARLINGTON As a “boat person” fleeing South Vietnam at 10 years old in 1980, Nga Nguyen said her family of seven had little but their faith to cling to as they faced perils such as pirates from Thailand en route to their new home in Port Arthur.

Published (until 5/26/2035)
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