The history of Via de Cristo as a renewal movement begins with the history of the Cursillo® movement, since Via de Cristo is simply the Lutheran expression of the Cursillo®method.
Cursillo®, Spanish for "Short Course in Christianity," began in the Monastery of San Honorato on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain on January 7, 1949. It was the result of the religious stirrings that had taken place in Spain, on the mainland and on Majorca, during the years the remainder of the world was occupied with World War II. The ferment in the Spanish church had led to the idea of having a national pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. James at Compostella. The pilgrimage would be a time for the young men of Spain to dedicate themselves in a renewed way to the work of the church.
That first pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. James in the late 1940s involved Father Juan Capo, one of the principle authors of literature concerning the Cursillo ® movement. The Cursillo ® was originally designed for the restless youth, but was later expanded to include older, more mature, men as the need for more perseverance by the participants was discovered.
The first three-day weekend in the United States was held in Waco, Texas, in 1957 at James Connally Air Force Base. Two Spanish airmen were training with the US Air Force. Father Gabriel Fernandes had arrived in Waco in 1955 from Spain where he had experienced a Cursillo® under Father Juan Capo. The priest and the two airmen were responsible for putting on the first two weekends in Waco. A school for Spiritual Directors was formed and by July, 1959, eighteen weekends had been held in Waco.
In 1961, the first English-speaking Cursillo ® was held in San Angelo, Texas. By 1962, twenty-five more English speaking weekends were held and Cursillo® spread to California, Indiana, Michigan, and New Mexico. By 1973, 130 of the 160 Roman Catholic dioceses of the United States had introduced the Cursillo® movement. They invited 40 Episcopalian brethen to make their first Cursillo® in San Francisco.
The Lutheran movement began in 1976 in Iowa and Florida, and spread throughout the United States, finally coming to Texas in 1986. While Episcopalians were training Lutherans in the Metroplex in 1984-85, a group of Lutherans in the southern part of the state were being trained by leaders from Iowa.
The first Lutheran Cursillo® in Texas was held in January, 1986, at Lutherhill Camp in LaGrange with three participants from the Metroplex in attendance. The first Lutheran weekend in North Texas was held at the Bishop Mason Retreat and Conference Center in July, 1986, with the help of the Dallas and Fort Worth Episcopal Dioceses. In 1986, Lutherans in most parts of the country changed the name of their movement to Via de Cristo ("Way of Christ") and in 1994, the North Texas Lutheran Secretariat community also adopted that name.