Fr. Eusebio Buendía
Priest of Christ
By Sr. Ana Mª Cabezuelo S.H.M.
It is hard to believe that 22 years have already passed since that October 4th of 1994, when the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother opened our first community. It was the first time that a group of our Sisters, who had always lived together under the same roof, departed. It was a new and unforgettable experience.
We were the "miracle" that the pastor of the parish in Priego (Cuenca), Fr. Eusebio Buendía García, awaited.
Some time beforehand, he had launched a challenge to the mayor of the town, José Pérez: build a rest home for the elderly in the area. What seemed at first to be almost a “trap” or obligation later ended up becoming one of the very first rest homes in the Region of Castilla-LaMancha. An agreement was made: the mayor would help with the construction of the rest home, on the condition that the parish pastor found nuns to take care of the elderly residents. Fr. Eusebio told him, “Nuns?! Nowadays, when there are so few? I’ll have to go to Lourdes to ask for this miracle!”
Miracles do happen, and they will continue happening as long as God continues to guide us with His provident hand. In a very providential manner, our Servant Priests and Brothers of the Home of the Mother had also started working in several parishes in Cuenca, under Bishop Guerra Campos, who had granted them ecclesiastical approval. Shortly after this, Fr. Eusebio asked them if they knew of any religious sisters who could take care of the elderly at the rest home and the Servant Brothers spoke to them about us. But Fr. Eusebio was that “mad man” who, with a holy madness, was able to look beyond our appearance and place complete confidence in us. From the beginning, he opened all the doors to us, he placed complete confidence in us, he gave us his smile. He surrendered himself body and soul, as he had always done, because Fr. Eusebio did not know any other form of giving his life than complete selfdonation.
This past August 10, 2016, we attended his funeral. The widely attended final salute to this simple parish pastor was marked by tears and applause. He had been “their pastor”. Each of those present was there because Fr. Eusebio had been the priest that baptized them, that heard their confessions, that gave them their First Communion, who married them, who anointed their sick and elderly in the family, who celebrated their relatives’ funerals, who put food on the table of a needy family with children, who found a house for those who had no decent living space, who found a wheelchair for those in need, who so often visited the sick and elderly, and took them Holy Communion every First Friday of the month... All of them, every single one of them, was there because they had something to thank him for and therefore, a reason not to miss his funeral. There were also 34 fellow diocesan priests present for the final salute. Thus did we also pay our last respects to Fr. Eusebio, with true affection and admiration. His wake was held in the chapel of “Our Lady of the Tower”, patroness of the town of Priego. Faithful of all ages attended. We were touched by the tenderness with which many young people also showed their affection. An eight-year-old boy parked his bike outside the church and went inside with his helmet on. He had come alone, unafraid of making a visit to a deceased person. He wanted to see Fr. Eusebio and, following the example of the adults he saw, pray before the remains of the priest who had baptized him.
How could we be anything but grateful to him! The Home of the Mother has spiritually benefitted from him on thousands of occasions, thanks to him. He always opened his doors to us.
Fr. Eusebio really taught us so many things. He was such a simple person, so friendly with large and small alike, so hidden, without ever making noise... He always had a story to tell, some adventure that he had lived in his different trips throughout the world or some acquaintance he had made, etc. His life alone would be enough to write a screenplay for an award-winning film. He never spoke badly of anyone. He always excused others. There was so much love in his heart for us all! He left us a remarkable example of charity and mercy. His smile was the key able to open any heart. Till the end, until his strength failed him, he always greeted his visitors with a smile on his face.
For many, he will be remembered as the “construction priest”.Why? Because he was the one who made sure that the structure of San Miguel de la Victoria Monastery in Priego remained standing. He rebuilt churches, hermitages… working himself on the construction, building new roads. Nothing got in his way, because he knew what he had to do and he did it. He got everyone working and sooner or later men and women willing to help him arrived on the scene as well. For many others, he has also been considered, “the priest of the Works of Mercy”. His life seems to be the incarnation of Jesus’ words: “I was hungry and you fed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, stranger and you welcomed me…” Fr. Eusebio was an “open channel”. Money never stopped in his pocketbook. Everything he received, he gave to those in need. He always found someone in need and some project to invest in. That was why he always had donors, because they knew that money in Fr. Eusebio’s hands would inevitably bear fruit.
As Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, we received the great grace of being able to take care of him until the end, until he breathed his last in our presence. We accompanied him in every step of his physical deterioration as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
In his final moments, his concern was the salvation of souls. Every night, before laying him down to sleep, we would accompany him in prayer and as he fell asleep, he would make petitions to the Lord. He prayed for what he had in his heart: the salvation of souls. He asked the Lord to have mercy on the world. He prayed that young people would listen to God’s Word… Other times he would make us laugh when he jokingly prayed, “Lord, have mercy on these women who treat me so badly.” Then, he would laugh with us.
A few days before his death, Fr. Felix, Superior General of the Servant Brothers and Priests of the Home of the Mother, came to visit him. Fr. Eusebio’s health had suffered a serious decline. He was completely hunched over and we could hardly understand what he said. Fr. Felix celebrated Mass for us and we had Fr. Eusebio participate, seated in his wheelchair wearing a stole. Fr. Felix celebrated the Mass for a Holy Death. It would be his last Mass. I was very touched by how he seemed to live the moment of the Communion. Fr. Felix wet his fingers in the chalice and placed the Blood of Christ on Fr. Eusebio’s tongue, as he was no longer able to swallow on his own. That would be his last Communion.
At the end of the Mass, I had to leave the house. I kissed his priestly hands, knowing that it would be the last time I did so. I took his hand and placed it on my head, telling him, “Bless me, Fr. Eusebio.” A bit later, I had to call the house. One of the Sisters held the phone up to his ear. I asked him, “What’s new, Fr. Eusebio?” Making a great effort, he mumbled the words: “I’m ready.” These words were like his “Consummatum est.” He was desiring to go with the Lord and he was ready.
He passed away just as simply as he had lived, leaving us with the hope that he will now become our intercessor and with the joy that, by the mercy of God, he will continue smiling down on us all. The most fitting epitaph that could summarize his life is that same phrase used to describe his Teacher: “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
©HM Magazine; º192 September-October 2016