Adiós, amigo adios, said Father Robert D’Silva, pointing towards the coffin of Mrs Rita de Souza, the Goan educationist and St Lawrence Girls School principal, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 92.
The air was tranquil and the church was filled with her colleagues, family friends, students and parishioners for the funeral of their beloved teacher, and a very loving human being.
Mrs de Souza will be remembered as a proficient English teacher and an active social member of the St Lawrence Parish. She started with teaching at the school and moved on to spend another 25 years at the college. Her short stint of over three years as the A-Level section head at St Patrick’s High School was the last of her teaching career, but she continued giving tuitions.
For many, what defined her was her calm nature and humbleness.
“She was an extremely gentle person. I never saw her angry or lose her temper as she always kept the feelings of other people before hers,” said Fr D’Silva. He was the parish priest at St Lawrence Church for some time and had a close association with de Souza.
Mrs de Souza was the eldest of five siblings and was born in Baghdad in February 22, 1920, when her father was posted in Iraq during the British Raj.
“She came to Karachi at the age of two, when the city was sparsely populated and the Christians in the city were largely English-speaking,” said Sister Mary Andrew, her younger sibling and also an educationist, who has taught at the Convent of Jesus and Mary.
She grew up at the St Joseph’s Convent and when the exodus began after the partition until the 1960s, she gained reputation because of her knowledge and command over the community’s history.
She was an extremely social person and was particularly popular among her students, whom she taught unfailingly with a smile, yet very disciplined and strict over behaviour and manners, said her sister. “She was very conscious of trying to make her students aware of the values of life and not to waste it on trifles.”
Her husband, Cyril P de Souza was a police superintendent, who passed away several years ago. The couple did not have any children.
Apart from Sr Andrew, Mrs de Souza’s elder sister, Carmela Fernandes, and brother, Joseph Sequeira, are settled in Canada.
Besides being an educationist, Mrs de Souza was also an active social member of the parish, who devoted her life for the care of the old and the sick. “She would visit every old home in the city,” said Desmond Vas, the son of her best friend. “She was a true Christian.”
Menin Rodrigues, a parishioner and a family friend, said that she was a member of several social and welfare societies and organisations, and played a prominent part in the community. “Due to her excellent command over English language, for years she wrote the annual church report,” he said.
Sister Mary, of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM), grew up knowing Mrs de Souza as a parishioner at the church.
The sisters of the FMM funded St Lawrence’s Girls School in January 1936. Sr Mary remembers her as a kind and caring soul. “She would always visit the ill, no matter how old she herself was,” she said. “She has left us with a legacy that we are proud to own,” said Father D’Silva.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2012.