02/26/2007, 00.00
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The Athaide family: mum, dad and 14 kids “open to life”

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Neo-catechumen parents live near Mumbai. They talk to AsiaNews about their 22 years of marriage and the joy of being open to life and the Will of the Lord, but also about prejudices they endure in a society in which the family is under constant attack.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – They faced economic hardships, society’s scorn and comments from others that they were mad. And yet in more than 20 years of marriage David and Claudina Athaide had 14 children. With their big family, they live in Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai, India’s economic capital.

The two are Neo-catechumens. They talked to AsiaNews about their joys and what they had to give up from everyday life at the time when the family is under constant attack in India and around the world.

“Before we got married,” said 50-year-old David, “we did not think about how many children we wanted to have; perhaps two or three, maximum.”

This all changed when “we went deeper into the teachings of the Church on marriage, family, sexuality and life. We came to realise that God is arbiter of life and as a Christian couple we are called to be open to life and the Will of the Lord.”

The greatest fear they had was that they would not make it economically, but now “with 14 children we saw that God provides everything we need and that despite difficulties we lack nothing.” Moreover, friends and relatives were always generous towards the young couple.

Whenever mother was pregnant, “the children welcomed new ones with joy and bet on whether the new-born would be male or female,” said the father.

However, at school or in college the older children have to face unwelcome personal questions like ‘Are your parents illiterate?’ or ‘How many beds do you have?’” Their reactions to some comments, their father said, ranged from “surprise and to being offended because for them their family is just like any other.”

Claudina, 43, has able to manage the household thanks to her parents’ help. “Every time I was pregnant my father who is a physician encouraged me, telling me I was doing the right thing; that I was following the laws of nature.”

Claudina’s mother has also always helped her daughter. “Although she is old, she baby sits so I and David can go out some evenings,” she said.

For the family working together is equally important. “It’s like living in a clan,” said Claudina. “My oldest daughter, Susanna, who is 20, studies or reads a book as she takes care of 2-year-old Jemima. Hannah, 12, bathes Asher, who was born just a month ago.”

Claudina does admit that there were very difficult moments. “I spent 20 years during which I was either pregnant or breast-feeding. I have been sick and the children have been sick; first one, then the other. It seemed it would never end. Then they start to rebel but then they grow up and mature. It is the smaller ones who make trouble, especially when it comes to helping in house chores.”

But “through all this, we found strength in the Word of God, the Sacraments and the Rosary,” Claudina explained. “Every Sunday we all celebrate Lauds around the dinner table and this helps us live in communion.”

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