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Meet Eddie AlbaÑez: Delivering Love One Loaf at a Time

by Thom Hiatt, Communications Chair, Cursillo San Diego

“Get whatever you want — load up!” Eddie directed me as we walked through a particularly nice panaderia in Tecate. Mexican art and ironwork covered the walls. The saltillo tile floor was polished. The air was sweet. And while it was my first visit, the bustling shop was obviously a popular spot for many locals.

panaderia

I’d never seen such a wide variety of baked goods in one place. Apple, cream, pineapple, square, round, flat, flaky, soft, light, dark. Each creation as unique as a human being, and every one made with love. We were surrounded by racks upon racks of homemade pastries, floor to ceiling, left and right.

“Grab a tray and tongs. Take a bunch home to your family,” he nudged me, his budget-conscious friend. “Your kids will love them... And I’m buying,” he persisted with non-stop generosity.

EddieAlbanezMeet Eddie Albañez, born and raised in Calexico, CA, and a long-time San Diego resident. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Patty. They started dating when Ronald Reagan took the oval office. The happy couple has three sons, two of which attend SDSU and UCSD. Eddie and Patty made their Cursillo weekends 258/259 in 2010.

I first met Eddie when he was working my Cursillo weekend #262, and since then, we’ve become close friends through a prayer group. His love for Christ, his generosity, and his actions are inspiring to me (and I hope for you, too) so I asked him to meet me for an interview over coffee. We agreed on a time, and he chose a bagel shop somewhat equidistant from our homes.

We greeted each other with a hug at a table in front of the restaurant. “Do you want a bagel or coffee?” he offered. I declined, pointing toward my mug full of coffee from home, “No, I’m good, thanks.” He headed inside to place an order, while I quickly brainstormed interview questions.

BagelEddie returned with coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, a sesame seed bagel & schmear, plus two jalapeño-cheese bagels full of cream cheese. He pushed a jalepeño bagel my way, while I laughed with appreciation and secretly calculated the additional minutes I would need to invest on the stairmaster at the Y. He said, “I am trying to pump you up before our weight-loss competition.” His words were delivered with some sort of evil pleasure.

“Did Cursillo change you?” I asked as we got down to business. “Cursillo didn’t change me,” he replied quickly, but then corrected himself just as fast. “Well, it did. I’ve always been a man of faith, but Cursillo made me totally conscious of God’s love and power.”

“Then who was Eddie before Cursillo?” I asked curiously, having only known him as a Cursillista. “I was always a family man. Even keel. No issues, really. Our family would go to church when we remembered, or if we had the time,” he described the past.

“Church wasn’t really a priority for us, and we’d go maybe six or seven times a year. Honestly, I wasn’t really paying attention back then... probably spending more time looking at others... wondering what they were doing there — you know — what their story was,” Eddie said sounding somewhat mechanical.

Like a lot of people, I related, and asked, “So what was the big thing that happened for you at Cursillo — the one thing that really moved you?”

“I realized that Christ was in me. In my wife. In my kids. In you. In everyone in this restaurant,” he said while looking at customers on the other side of the glass. “Now I see them and treat them differently.”

“Treat them differently, how?” I asked for more detail as Eddie pulled the top off his orange juice and began pouring it back and forth repeatedly between two plastic cups. I thought he was mixing up the pulp.

“I think of it like Christ is right by my side all of the time,” he painted his perspective, “and I try to act the way Christ would want me to act... to treat others the way Christ would want to be treated Himself.”

By this time he had created two identical cups of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and pushed one to my side of the table.

I couldn’t help but think of a story Eddie told me a few months ago, of how he befriended a homeless man, took him home for a shower, bought him new shoes, new clothes, and helped him register into the El Nido program. That’s exactly what Jesus would do.

But as perfectly Christ-like as Eddie seems, he’s the first to admit that he’s often judgmental of others who are “so totally distant” from God. “I want to say to them ‘What’s wrong with you? Snap out of it!’ and I shouldn’t think that way,” he shared with all honesty.

Sharing obstacles and honest truths with others is something that comes easier with grouping. Eddie fellowships with with a group of guys that initially formed in the fall of 2009. “My friend Peter called one day and invited me to pray with our friends Marty and Danny,” he explained. “And I was like ‘yeah I need that, too’ and so we started getting together every other week, just the four of us.”

One guy invited another, who fished for another, and so on. Today, the Men’s Prayer Group (MPG) is just shy of 100 men, and regularly sees 15-20 guys at each gathering. They usually have a hosted dinner, prayer intentions, and a rosary. The men share openly about life’s biggest challenges and successes, and they support each other both during the meetings and socially.

mpg

Many months ago, the MPG gathered at the Del Cerro home of the Trinitarians of Mary. The Mother shared with the men that it was becoming increasingly difficult for the Trinitarians to deliver large loads of donated bread to the needy families in Tecate. The men offered to take over the job, and have made all deliveries since, usually two trucks at a time.

ridersThis past November I made my first “bread run” to Tecate, along with Eddie and our friend Rob, also a Cursillista. A few minutes southwest of Tecate, we turned left onto an extremely steep, half-mile long, uphill, dirt road that has too many deep and dangerous ruts to count. As a newbie, I never would have expected to find a chapel at the top of the mountain!

We found individuals and families standing patiently in a line that had formed hours earlier. Babies, children, men, women and the elderly wait in faith, knowing that every other Saturday morning men from the United States will show up sometime before noon with trucks full of bread. Something to eat.

With the trucks empty and our hearts warm, there was one more stop to make before heading home...
And this is how Eddie Albañez and I wound up in a panaderia south of the border.

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©2012 San Diego English Speaking Cursillo

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