Tres Dias traces its ancestry through Cursillo.
Cursillo had its beginnings amid the turmoil and destruction of civil warfare and of the Second World War, which left Spain with empty churches and a sense of aimlessness and diminished dreams. Late in the 1940’s, a sense of revival was stirring within the Roman Catholic Church. Small groups of friends in various Catholic action groups began to share their faith regularly to help one another. Pilgrimages were organized whereby men and women could rededicate their lives toward Christian ideals. Bishop Juan Hervas, who was active in action groups and renewal activities with the men on the island of Majorca, and Eduardo Bonin, who was involved with organizing pilgrimages, met through these sharing groups. They began to see how the church could benefit and the lives of people could be changed through studying and sharing their lives in Christ.
With a broadening vision of what these small sharing groups (reunion groups) could accomplish, weekly meetings produced periodic retreats where the reality of living a Christian life was intensely taught and experienced through support by reunion groups. These retreats became known as Cursillo de Christiandad, which means “short course in Christianity.” Originally the retreats grew out of the reunion groups!
There were few men in the Church after the tragedy of war in Spain. One prime objective in the early years was to revitalize the church by bringing men back into the activities of the church.
The Cursillo movement was confined to Spanish speaking countries until the late 1950’s when a group of men from the Spanish Air Force, who were in training in Texas, and were in a Reunion Group, conducted the first Cursillo in the United States. Among the Spanish-speaking people the movement began to spread across the United States. The first English speaking Cursillo was held in the early 1960’s.
Protestants who attended the weekends, saw the need to make the experience available to other Protestants. This led to the development of the ecumenical Tres Dias. The first Tres Dias weekend was held in Newburgh, New York, November 2-5, 1972. Dave McManigal was its rector. He was a Protestant who had attended a Roman Catholic Cursillo and was led to be instrumental in forming Tres Dias That weekend, then as now, was open to all Christian traditions.
Others involved in starting Tres Dias were Helmut Maier; and Bob and Mary Essert.
Starting from the Mid-Hudson community in Newburgh/Poughkeepsie, New York, the movement spread rapidly. Pittsburgh was the second community; then Fairfield County, Connecticut, Northern New Jersey, Long Island, Maine, Central Connecticut, New Hampshire, and South Hudson.
In the Spring of 1979, with the encouragement of the Mid-Hudson Secretariat, John McKinney formed an ad hoc “National” secretariat with Jim Thornley, Anton Wellbrock, Gerry Hoernes, and Bob Decker. That group produced initial drafts of a “National” constitution and “Essentials of Tres Dias”. All other communities were invited to participate and refine the drafts.
On July 11, 1980, at Poughkeepsie, NY, the constitution and essentials were ratified and adopted by all of the above listed communities. The Tres Dias organization was formed as a national organization. The secretariats of the communities were chartered as local secretariats. John McKinney was the first president. Subsequently, Tres Dias was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in New York state … and was recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.
A “charter” member of the Tres Dias Secretariat, Peter Scharfenberg, has labored for two decades … stocking and shipping manuals and materials to Tres Dias people all over the world.
In 1985 Tres Dias became INTERNATIONAL when communities were chartered in Korea and Germany.
Tens of thousands of people have made the weekend and tens of thousands of lives have become more committed to serving our Lord Jesus.
The writers of this manual pray that Tres Dias will continue to be faithful to God’s spirit. May the people who have made a Tres Dias, be among the Christian leaders God uses to revitalize his people.