This is a very brief recollection of the life of a beautiful lady, Catharina Bende Sas, as seen through the eyes of her children Lidia, Charles and Rubem.
Catharina Bende Sas was born on Saturday, 24th November 1934, in a little town called Caiva Presidente Venceslau. The second of nine children born to Americo and Barbara Bende. Sadly, two passed away very young, in their infancy. Andrew was only 5 weeks old when he died of cot death and Lidia contracted Diphtheria when she was still under one year of age. There were seven who survived to adulthood. They grew up a very close-knit family. Their names are: Americo, Catharina (Mum), Suzana, Rodolfo, Clara, Margarida and Ester.
Due to the hardships and the shortage of food experienced during the World War II years, Catharina’s parents decided to move closer to Sao Paulo City, to a Hungarian settlement called “Istvan Falva”. When Catharina was ten years of age, the family moved to a town called Aluminio, to be close to their friends, the Sas family. The shy young man who was waiting at the station to pick up the Bende family by carriage was Alfredo Carlos. At the time he had no idea that in this family was his future bride. Both families grew very close, and the children almost felt like they were brothers and sisters.
The Bende family was very poor. There was no money for the children to study, but against all obstacles, Catharina still managed to finish her primary school and then at the age of eighteen receive her diploma as a seamstress. She also taught herself how to play a pedal organ and to read music; in those days this was quite an achievement for a young lady.
As young adults, both Catharina and Alfredo Carlos went their separate ways during the week to work in the big city of Sao Paulo. When Catharina was only eighteen years old, Alfredo Carlos decided to visit and spend a weekend at the Bende Family farm. Just before leaving, he handed a letter of proposal to Catharina while she was sewing. This brought her much joy, and after a very long engagement, they were married in the registry office on Friday, 30th December 1955, and the church service and reception were on Sunday, 1st January 1956.
Alfredo Carlos and Catharina were blest with four children, two girls and two boys: Lidia Raquel, Charles Daniel, Deise Regina and Rubem Alfredo.
One of the biggest challenges Mum had to face, was to leave her country Brazil and move to a new country, experiencing new culture, new language, and more. Leaving all her family and friends behind was one of the hardest things she did. On the 2nd December 1969 we arrived in Sydney Australia to start a new life.
As we started life in this beautiful country everything was new and exciting. Little did we know that in less than eight years we would be going through a devastating time. On the 17th March 1977 Deise Regina, our dear sister died at the age of eleven, something that our Mum never got over till the day she herself passed on.
Those who knew Mum knew that there was no limit to what she could achieve if given the opportunity. At a very young age, when Mum started working, she helped her family financially to buy a property in Mailasqui, Sao Roque, SP. Catharina’s hands were gold, and that was evident in the beautiful detailed embroidery that she did, the knitting and the sewing that kept her family warmly dressed, the beautiful veggies she grew and the delicious food that came from her kitchen. No matter whether there were 1 or 10 additional people for a meal, there was always enough food to go around, and there were still leftovers. Friday night dinners were especially amazing! We all got together at our parents’ home even after Joe and I, Charles and Lilly were married and moved out. This was a time that each of us looked forward to every week.
Food played a huge part in Mum’s life. Not just her family enjoyed her delightful meals, but Mum was always involved in cooking for church events, camps, conferences, executive committees, council meetings, or anywhere she was needed. Even in her later years, while living in the aged care facility, Mum worried that she did not have something to offer her visitors, especially her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What made her food distinct, was the flavour blend of Brazilian, European and Aussie cuisine. At home, Mum always kept a bonbonniere (lolly jar) filled with goodies for when her family would visit.
Washing and ironing was another thing… mum had no peer… I have never seen such beautifully washed and ironed clothes like the way our mum used to do it; from sheets and towels right down to even our underwear, everything was ironed… In the early 1960’s we moved to Brasilia when they were building that city. Everything was very dusty, as there were lots of dust storms. We lived in a two-room timber dwelling with dirt floors, where more dust would filter in between the timber paneled walls. It was necessary to sprinkle water on the floor before sweeping to settle the dust… but on the table there was a white starched embroidered tablecloth… this is how clean and tidy our mother was.
Mum always sought out some form of work whenever she could, to earn a little extra money, so that she could complement Dad’s minimal wages… since Dad’s wages came from tithe, she didn’t feel right spending it on things other than the necessities of life. While in Brasilia she washed shirts for some of the government diplomats; in Belo Horizonte she sold tablecloths, made Hungarian walnut-tortes for the rich society, and donuts and cakes for the corner shop; in Australia she worked nightshift as a nurse’s aide in Parramatta Nursing home for over 20 years; and in the USA she cleaned houses.
Some of the things mum enjoyed doing were bareback horse-riding, knitting (she would knit while on horseback caring for the cattle), reading, crocheting, gardening, swimming (especially enjoying the unbroken ocean waves). Mum always enjoyed music and loved singing alto in church choirs. Later in life she was the official organist at the church Dad pastored in Belo Horizonte where we lived last in Brazil prior to immigrating to Australia. Then here at Wentworthville Church she would also play the organ. Even on her death bed whilst in hospital, the singing of hymns seemed to soothe her and give her comfort.
There was no limit to Mum’s love for us; she was always planning something special to make us children happy. We have fond childhood memories of going to lunches at a department store cafeteria during school holidays. Three specific times she sacrificed in order to give us the best were:
- Lidia – at a very young age received a special doll which was bought on monthly instalments.
- Charles – it was a beautiful Brazilian acoustic guitar.
- Rubem – a Malvern Star 12 speed racer bike.
Although she was very shy and quiet during her early years, life’s challenges made her a very strong, brave and resilient person. Someone we knew we could lean on and trust. Many times, while Dad was away travelling, she had to fend for herself and take on the responsibility of both a father and mother. Many times, she would take her three younger children to work with her during her nightshift as a nurses’ aid, as she didn’t want to leave them alone at home. With all that she had to do, she still found time to make some improvements in our home as a surprise for Dad when he returned home from a trip.
Mum was meticulous in everything that she did. She had a habit of counting things, like how many patties she would fry, how many cookies she would bake, how many pieces of clothing she would wash, how many shirts she would iron, etc. She kept a very detailed accounting book, and she would balance her finances every Tuesday. Mum would have made an excellent accountant!
Sadly, for Mum and all of us, in 1989 she once again moved away from family and friends to live in the USA. Dad was transferred there to be the SDARM General Conference Secretary and later the SDARM President. During this time away, there were many ‘happy hellos’ and ‘sad goodbyes’ until they finally moved back to Australia when Dad retired in 2005.
Our mum loved babies and children. She would light-up whenever she saw her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, they were the joy of her life. Mum had great peace, pride and joy when they were by her side. She was also a very devoted mother to us children. Mum used to always call the young ones “darling”, and when she heard the grandchildren’s voices on the phone she would always say: “Hello Darling”…
After returning from the USA, Mum’s bone health continued deteriorating. She suffered with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis, and Osteoporosis. This led to replacement surgery in both knees, some of her back nerves being severed, and the final broken hip. For many years Mum stayed mostly at home as it was too hard for her to go out. Dad was her full-time care giver. The last two years of her life, Mum lived in an aged care facility, Dudley Foord House, where she had 24/7 care and we could constantly visit.
Our mum had a hip replacement operation in Norwest Private Hospital on the 17th January, and six days later, on Thursday 23rd January 2020, she peacefully fell asleep.
We look forward to the resurrection morning, when by God’s grace we will meet each other once again!
Catharina was survived by her:
- Husband: Alfredo Carlos.
- Children: Lidia & Joe, Charles & Lilly, Rubem & Elizabeth.
- Grandchildren: Jade & Luke, Amy & Benny, Brendan, Ashley & Benji, Jeremiah, Harrison, Kayli, Barnaby.
- Great-grandchildren: Josiah, Levi, Cyrus, Zachariah, Hiram.
One of Mum’s favourite Bible Verses:
Psalms 91:1 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
Some of Mum’s Favourite Hymns were:
- Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine
- Does Jesus Care
- Jesus Loves Me
- We Know Not the Time When He Cometh
Catharina was deeply loved by all and is sorely missed. She will always remain in our hearts.
~ Lidia, Charles and Rubem