The ACTS movement came to birth from the Cursillo Movement through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. ACTS started in 1987 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Selma, Texas, a small suburb of San Antonio. "Three men who were formerly involved with Cursillo, Ed Courtney and Joe Hays of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Selma, and Dr. Marty Sablik of St Luke's parish, met in the spring of 1987 at a local restaurant and discussed the possibilities of starting a retreat program that would concentrate more on parish life and community.
The proposed retreat program was approved by Joe Hayes' pastor, Father Patrick Cronin, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, his pastoral council and Archbishop Patrick Flores. The men received the blessings to form a committee to develop a retreat weekend with a goal of having a men's retreat in July 1987 and a women's retreat in the fall of 1987. Archbishop Flores asked that the committee be sure to allow non-Catholics to attend as part of the community.
The Origin of the Name "ACTS"
With Joe Hayes as chairman, 10 committee members began developing talks, sacramentals, meditations and schedules for the weekends. The committee met each week while forming the retreat program and discussed choosing a name for the retreat but there was never a consensus among them. One day Wallace Vaughn, one of the committee members, had a dream in which the Holy Spirit encouraged him to read Chapter 2, verses 42-47 of the Acts of the Apostles. This selection from Acts describes what the committee wanted to achieve on a retreat weekend. He also felt the Holy Spirit wanted the retreats to be called 'ACTS,' and thus the name was born. The acronym of ACTS came to mean Adoration, Community, Theology and Service, which is today the precept of these retreats.
“Nearly all who have experienced an ACTS retreat feel truly blessed by God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit."
The Cursillo Retreat is a wonderful weekend experience and true to its name is a remarkable "Short Course" in the Catholic faith. Although the ACTS retreat was modeled after Cursillo, there are some major differences, most notably in focus and in emphasis. Cursillo Retreats are strictly for Catholics, and always reach out to the general population to form team and recruit retreatants. ACTS Retreats are open to all faiths and generally are directed primarily to those within a parish.
Another example of difference is that the Cursillo Retreat is very structured and provides very little flexibility. The ACTS Retreat, on the other hand, represents the wishes of the Director and team in selection of presentations. No two ACTS retreats are exactly alike. There are certain events that are required but each retreat is unique because of the individuality of each team.
The ACTS and The Cursillo Retreats do the work of the Holy Spirit and both are needed. The ACTS Movement shall always be grateful to the Cursillo Movement for its beginnings and its foundation. The ACTS retreat has gradually become a Parish Weekend Retreat patterned after the description of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles (ACTS 2:42-47); breaking bread together, worshipping together, receiving instruction together, sharing in common, and reaching out in loving service.
After the weekend, participants are encouraged to reach out to parish activities. ACTS does not want to be thought of as a "Group", but as parishioners that have been on a special retreat and now have a greater interest in parish ministry involvement. Many men and women too numerous to mention here have added much and continue to add to the ACTS Movement through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
ACTS Missions was founded in 1997 to take the ACTS Retreat to new Parishes all over the world so that the spirit of ACTS would be alive in all parishes. ACTS Missions has helped to spread ACTS, and the retreat is now all over Texas, in 14 other states, and three other countries (Mexico, Honduras and South Africa).
History of ACTS Movement in Amarillo
Msgr. Waldow was the national Spiritual Director for the Cursillo Movement in the USA when he heard about the ACTS movement in San Antonio from a friend. Intrigued by what his friend had told him and wanting to know more, he was taken to St. Matthew’s parish, where the retreats were held within the parish itself. There, he saw the dynamic of the retreat and was fascinated.
Monsignor attended the next men’s retreat at St. Matthew’s. He knew immediately that it was something he wanted to someday bring here to Amarillo. Monsignor had started the English Cursillo in Amarillo but it failed to appeal to people. He knew he needed something different. His opportunity came when Bishop Yanta became the bishop of the Diocese of Amarillo, and Monsignor became one of his vicars.
Bishop Yanta allotted the money to implement the ACTS retreats, gave his support and after two retreats, with teams flown in from San Antonio, by 2001 the ACTS Community here in Amarillo was up and running. Msgr. Waldow worked every one of the first 44 retreats with the exception of one in the first 10 years.
Monsignor is still helping to coordinate the priest’s work and take one retreat a year…so he is not stepping out of ACTS. He simply wants the other priests to be a part of the movement, allowing others to step in and continue the work of ACTS in the Diocese of Amarillo. He believes Bishop Zurek still wants him to be the point priest for leading the priest core at this time and he is pleased to do that for him, the ACTS community and the Church.