Q: How did ACTS get started?

A: 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.

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.” 1

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.  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 their respective parish ministries and services. 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 ACTS Community would be alive in all parishes. ACTS has grown much since 1987, and is now in Alaska, California, Connecticut and Missouri, as well as all over Texas.

Q: What is an ACTS retreat?

A: An ACTS retreat is a three day and three night Catholic lay retreat presented by fellow parishioners. The retreat begins on Thursday evening and ends the following Sunday at a Mass celebrated with the parish community. Retreats for men, women and teens are given separately. Talks and activities during the retreat focus on Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service, from which the ACTS acronym is derived. Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are the guides for the retreats. The retreat takes on the traditions and atmosphere of the parish community sponsoring it. The retreat itself facilitates the attainment of a new or deeper relationship with our Lord through: Adoration – the call by, acceptance of, and response to God Community – the love and caring of each other Theology – the study of God through scripture and the Catholic Faith Service – to God, his people and the parish faith community. Each retreat is conducted by a retreat “team” composed of ~ 36 individuals who have attended prior ACTS retreats. Chosen by the retreat Director, the team organizes the retreat, conducts the retreat talks and activities, and ministers to the needs of the retreatants during the retreat weekend.

Q: What is the purpose of an ACTS retreat?

A: An ACTS weekend is designed to help the retreatants enter into a new or deeper relationship with our Lord and our fellow parishioners. This is accomplished through fellowship and daily prayer, the call to community in one’s parish as a member of the Body of Christ, and theology in encouraging the study of scripture and our Catholic Faith. All of these actions encourage the virtue of service to our Lord, our parish, and one another.

Q: What is the goal of an ACTS retreat?

A: A parish ACTS retreat strives to achieve the directives of Vatican II and goals of the Revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 which emphasize “community and pastoral care” within a parish. The weekend allows the retreatants to experience God’s love and joy. They return to their parish with a deeper love for each other and a desire to become more involved in their parish faith community.

Q: Why should I attend an ACTS retreat?

A: The weekend can be a powerful and enduring personal conversion experience. Talks, which draw from the personal experiences of team members, focus on Adoration, the need for prayer and meditation on the word of God; Community, the importance of community built on faith and love; Theology, the need to read and understand scripture and our Catholic Faith; and Service, the need to answer Christ’s call to service. Activities conducted during the weekend give retreatants a better understanding of the significance and importance of prayer, liturgy, the sacraments, scripture, community, and service.

It is a powerful community building experience for a parish. The ACTS weekend brings the retreatants to a better understanding of God’s love for them, and also develops their need to share that love with others through their involvement in a faith-centered parish community.

The retreat emphasizes our call to serve our parish community and the greater world community. Frequently the retreatant experiences a new or renewed dedication to the life of the parish community and a new recognition of the needs of those around us and of our obligation, as followers of Christ, to help meet those needs.

Q: Who can attend an ACTS retreat?

A: ACTS retreats are open to all Christians. While ACTS is a Catholic retreat, it is open to other Christians who are open to learning about the Roman Catholic faith.