Transitions: Adiós Rita de Souza... rest in peace

Published: May 27, 2012

A large crowd turned up to bid farewell to Mrs Rita de Souza, who died on Saturday. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

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.

Reader Comments (4)

  • Joseph Sequeira
    May 31, 2012 - 8:51PM

    I am deeply grateful to Samia Malik for her tribute to my sister Mrs. Rita DeSouza.
    Yes. she was a remarkable lady who spent her life in the educational field and many of her ex-pupils both in Pakistan and abroad whom I have met have invariable maintained that the success they have achieved was to a large extent due to the principles of hard work, honesty and integrity that she not only taught them but exemplified in her own life. She also spent a lot of her time visiting the sick and the house bound and caring for those she felt had less in life than she had. This attribute of caring was evident in the reciprocity it engendered in those who served her; her two Pathan driver brothers, Shafiq and Rafiq, who worked for her for over 29 years are living proof of a sense of loyalty loyalty that she naturally invoked in other.
    May her Soul rest in Peace

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  • Clare Fernandez
    Jun 2, 2012 - 10:27AM

    Thank you to all who cared for my aunt. There was a warmth and caring about the house, Epaldene, where she resided, and all who passed though those doors felt that sentiment.
    I remember her kindness, and for the seven years that I was raised in that house, it was a very happy and joy filled time. May she rest in peace, content that her legacy of love will continue in the memories of all who knew her.

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  • Agnes Sequeira
    Jun 22, 2012 - 5:00AM

    I was happy to read the tribute to my cousin Rita deSouza. She was not only my cousin, but my Physiology teacher at St. Lawrence Convent, where she did such a good job that I can still name all the different bones in my body to the surprise of my physiotherapists! She was also my neighbor as we lived in the flat next to her for over 20 years. To her unwavering kindness, I can testify by the fact that she visited me every day for almost two months when I was hospitalised in Karachi a few years ago, despite her own advanced age and disabilities. I will miss her and our interesting phone conversations.

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  • Desiree D'Souza
    Jun 25, 2012 - 6:36PM

    Aunty Rita was more than an Educationist….she was a kind and gentle person who was a great example of strength. She was a foster-grandmother to my daughter who loved her to bits. While we lived in Epaldene my daughter probably spent more time at her house than she did in ours because she knew Aunty Rita would spoil her and play with her.
    I was terribly saddened to hear about her death but Aunty Rita told me the last time I met her in January that it was inevitable in a very matter-of-fact way and that she was happy to meet her Maker because she had put her life in order…I was truly humbled to hear those words because there arent that many people who can say that.
    My deepest condolence go out to St. Andrew, Uncle Joe and Aunty Carmi. I do not have their contact details but would like to tell them that their sister was one-of-a-kind :)

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