The Walk To Emmaus comes out of the Roman Catholic Cursillo tradition. ln Spanish, the word “Cursillo” means a “little or short course”. The Emmaus Weekend is a short course in Christianity.
Cursillo had its origin in Majorca, an island off the cost of Spain, in the late 1940s. After World War ll a Roman Catholic Bishop saw a deterioration of the Christian faith in his diocese. Along with some laymen, they developed this program to raise up leaders among the men of his parish. The first Cursillos were very penitential in nature, In fact, the team and pilgrims fasted for the full 72 hours of the retreat.
Cursillo came to the United States in 1956 when two Spanish Air Cadets came to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for flight training. There they met a Spanish priest who was also a Cursillista (which is one who has attended Cursillo.) At first Cursillos were held along the Mexican-American border and were only in Spanish. lt spread to other Spanish speaking communities before being translated into English. Cursillo has spread across the United States and many different denominations have adopted the program. Except for a very few areas, Cursillo is not ecumenical.
ln 1977, the Upper Room (an agency of the United Methodist Church) became interested in Cursillo. Two United Methodist models of Cursillo were sponsored in Peoria, Illinois which is one of the few ecumenical Cursillo centers. ln 1981, in mutual agreement with the National Secretariat of the Roman Catholic Cursillo, the Upper Room Cursillo changed its name to the Walk to Emmaus.
The Walk to Emmaus has spread across the country – mostly in United Methodist Annual Conferences and also at least one Presbyterian Synod. “Walks to Emmaus” are held in Australia, Brazil, and around the world. Many “walks” called Kairos have been held in prisons around the United States. Similar programs are called Chrysalis Flights for youth ages 15-18 and Chrysalis Journeys for College aged youth.
The Central lllinois Emmaus Community was formed in the summer of 1982 and has held Emmaus Weekends since December 1982. That Community accepted pilgrims from northern Illinois in 1986, The Northern Illinois Emmaus Community owes much to the Central Illinois Community and the Peoria diocese which accepted many different denominational pilgrims. These pilgrims returned to their homes and began to develop the Emmaus Community that is now called Northern Illinois Emmaus.
Many people from northern Illinois communities donated time and money to establish this community. The first “Walk to Emmaus” held by the Northern Illinois Emmaus Community was in July of 1987. Again, without the help from Central |llinois, this community would not have been as successful. Northern Illinois Walk to Emmaus #1 served 11 male Pilgrims and Walk to Emmaus #2 served 27 women Pilgrims.
Emmaus is ecumenical in nature. This means any person from any denomination is welcome to participate fully in any capacity. Our hope is that through Emmaus we may come to a better understanding and closer unity with our brothers and sisters of differing denominations. We hope that though participation in a Walk that you will come to a deeper understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ which has NO denominational boundaries. The goal of the “Walk to Emmaus” is to make Christian communities possible in neighborhoods, churches, work situations, and all other places where people live the greater part of their lives. lt attempts to make it possible for anyone to live a Christian life in a natural way, lt attempts to put a renewed meaning and add boldness to the most important proclamation that anyone will make. That is: “l AM A CHRISTIAN”..