BENEDITA FERNANDES (1883 – 1947)
Known as “The Lady of Charity”, Benedita Fernandes dedicated a large part of her life to caring for and loving others. Born on June 27, 1883, Benedita suffered from severe obsessions and even lost contact with her family, wandering the streets. On one occasion, she was even arrested at a police station for disturbing some of the residents, as there were no psychiatric hospitals at the time.
One day, while still in prison, she had a breakdown and heard the following call: “Benedita, if you promise to devote yourself entirely to the sick and the poor, you will be rehabilitated” From then on, Benedita improved her mental health and decided to move to the city of Araçatuba, in the state of São Paulo, where she dedicated her life to social work.
First, she started rescuing and caring for neglected children in a modest house – which was later renamed Lar Benedita Fernandes de Araçatuba.
Once, the children had nothing to eat. Benedita explained to them that if they went to the gate, Jesus would help them. They stood at the entrance to the home, their stomachs hurting. A man called Ricieri was passing by, selling belly fat, kidneys, liver, tripe, you name it. Ricieri asked them what they were doing out there. “We’re waiting for Jesus to feed us”. He replied: “Tell your mother inside that Jesus has arrived! And from that day on, with the leftovers, there was no more hunger there.
Some time later, she also began to help people with mental disorders. When they were in distress, the dementia sufferers would come up to her, this strong woman with a hopeful smile would sit in a nearby chair, snuggle them into her lap, put their heads in her lap, calm them down with prayers, passes and good words, and the crisis would fade away, and they would be calm, pacified by the irresistible force of love.
A simple, uncultured woman, she was recognized for her dedication to others and became a reference point for the city of Araçatuba and the Brazilian Spiritist Movement. In addition to the Children’s Home and the Dr. Jaime de Oliveira Asylum, Benedita also founded the Night Shelter and Mixed Schools. Due to her good will and dedication, she won the respect and admiration of the people and the authorities.
It is worth remembering that the spirit who had previously obsessed her became one of her spiritual collaborators. As one of the pioneers of the Spiritist Movement, Benedita founded the Northwest Regional Spiritist Union on August 30, 1940, and was elected its president.
He fell ill at 11 p.m. on October 8, 1947, when she was talking to the children and counseling them. On October 9, 1947, at the age of 64, she passed away serenely. Her funeral was the most attended at the time, and to this day her grave is one of the most visited in the city of Araçatuba.
Autora: Keila Campos