Former principal of St Joseph’s, Zinia Pinto, passes away at 83

Published: June 6, 2013
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A photograph of Sr Zinia Pinto, who died on Tuesday, from when she joined St Joseph’s school in 1956. PHOTO: COURTESY: ST JOSEPH’S SCHOOL

A photograph of Sr Zinia Pinto, who died on Tuesday, from when she joined St Joseph’s school in 1956. PHOTO: COURTESY: ST JOSEPH’S SCHOOL

KARACHI: Sister Zinia Pinto, who passed away at the age of 83 on Tuesday night, would have disapproved of any emotional outbursts over her death.

The former principal of St Joseph’s Convent High School and Mother Superior was legendary for her restraint, which she used as a tool for discipline. After break, for example, as the giddy teenaged girls in the brown and blue-checkered uniform lined up for assembly, Sr Zinia would quietly take her place at the head of the columns and start speaking so softly that everyone had to shut up to hear her speak. I don’t need to shout to be heard, she would say.

It was thus fitting that a quietly dignified notice was the only bearer of news of her death on Wednesday morning: “Your prayers are requested for the soul of Sister Zinia Pinto who passed away last night. School will remain closed on Wednesday and Thursday. The funeral service of Sr Zinia Pinto will be held on Thursday at 4pm at St Patrick’s Cathedral.”

Sister Zinia Pinto

If anything, the silence on the campus of the 151-year-old St Joseph’s Convent School in Saddar started by five Daughters of the Cross from Belgium in 1862, spoke volumes of the loss of one of its most inspiring figures.

Life history

Born on September 7, 1929 in Goa, Sr Zinia came from a family of 11 children. She was the ninth child. After studying up to high school in Goa, she pursued her Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St Xavier’s College in Bombay and was trained as a teacher.

She taught for nearly a year in Bombay and for almost three years in Darjeeling district’s hill station, Kurseong, before migrating to Karachi in 1956. It was here that she was appointed a teacher at St Joseph’s Convent High School.

In 1958, she joined the convent and prepared to join the order in Belgium’s Liège. Upon her return to Karachi in 1960, she joined the University of Karachi and obtained a Master’s degree in psychology. She joined St Joseph’s as the principal in 1963 and held this office for almost 30 years.

A progressive reformer

Sr Margaret recalled that it was until the 1990s that the sisters had to adhere to strict dress codes. “When we were allowed to dress according to the customs of the country, Sr Zinia was the first to change her habits,” recalled Sr Margaret, adding that Sr Zinia was fond of traditional Punjabi dresses given her Goan-Punjabi background. “That’s how she was – a young-at-heart and go-ahead soul adopting new positive trends and things in life.”

Her colleagues remember her as a modern educationist who wanted to make use of all the new technology. “She was, in fact, the one who introduced computer education at the convent school, which was later followed by the rest of the institutions across the country,” recalled Sr Margaret.

Sr Angelina Francis, the present superior of the house, told The Express Tribune that she had the opportunity to spend around six years with Sr Zinia at a Catholic providence home located in DHA before the two moved to St Joseph’s. “As a psychologist, Sr Zinia could understand the needs of those children from broken families or of single parents and took an interest in providing them a homely environment,” she said.

Fauzia Fikree, who has been teaching at the school for nearly 46 years now, remembers her mentor fondly. Once when Fikree was going to the United States, Sr Zinia handed her an envelope and told her to open it in New York. “What I found was nothing except a hundred dollar bill,” said Fikree, smiling at the memory. “That’s how she showed how much she cared.”

Another teacher, Muna Kazi Pathan, also attributes her life’s lessons to Sr Zinia. “How I live and what my values are, are all I have learnt from her – she made us into complete human beings.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Amina khan
    Jun 6, 2013 - 1:58AM

    It saddens me tremendously to read about such a great Lady’ death like this.
    Dearest Sister Zinia you have never been forgotten nor can be any St Joseph student. I have soo many fond memories and till today deeply value all that you taught me about life.
    You and Miss Shafiqa Fikhree are always in my thoughts and prayers.
    Rest in Peace :(

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  • Aysha
    Jun 6, 2013 - 12:37PM

    Tremendous contribution toward education in Karachi. May Allah bless her soul (ameen)

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  • Shehlah
    Jun 6, 2013 - 3:16PM

    Salute to the dedication of all the wonderful sisters & teachers at St. Josephs. They have made us successful doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, homemakers, politicians and much more… yet they continue their work without expectation of any accolades or material gains… ‘this’ is perhaps the most important lesson for us. God bless you all a thousand times over. Ameen.

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  • Winnie Wilson( nee Fernandes)
    Jun 6, 2013 - 6:44PM

    I am a former student of St. Joseph”s Convent High School – and former Secretary to Sr. Mary Emily,F.C. of St. Joseph’s College -for 9 years — I remember Sr. Zinia – as my Principal — she was strict — but always scolded in such a passive way – she had a lovely smile — the last I saw of her was in 1995 — may her soul rest in peace – will keep her in my prayers – and for the other nuns who mourn her.

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  • Winnie Wilson( nee Fernandes)
    Jun 6, 2013 - 6:46PM

    Sr. Zinia was a wonderful person – though she was strict but so passive – she had a wonderful smile — she was my Principal – as I am a former St.Joseph’s Convent High School student — may her soul rest in peace – and pray for the nuns who mourn her.

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  • Carole Saldanha
    Jun 7, 2013 - 12:50AM

    I am deeply saddened to hear the news of Sir. Zinia’s passing. She was indeed a lady with abundant qualities that singled her out as a distinguished, kind and fair human being. She excelled as a teacher, was remarkable as a Principal, and, without a doubt incomparable as an educationist. I am reminded of her spontaneous wide smile and her gentle demeanor. Sister you will always be remembered in my thoughts and my prayers.
    R.I.P

    Carole Saldanha (Dias).

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  • Arifa Mashhood Hamid
    Jun 7, 2013 - 8:28AM

    When I joined St. Joseph’s Convent as a Grade 3 student, Sister Zinia Pinto was the principal. After graduation we moved to St. Joseph’s College and would cross through th garden to see and talk to her. Although my friend Tubeh Durrani and I were often marched to her office for our numerous pranks, she would scold us to make us realise we were wasting our potential.

    A disciplinarian but with a great sense of humour! An Educationist par excellence! I wish I had known about my Alma Mater’s 150th last year, it would have been good to see her, Miss Pathan ( grade 5 teacher), Miss Fikree (grade 7 Lilies), the other nuns.

    Thank you all, what we are today is owed to all of you and many more!

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  • Aysha Haider
    Jun 7, 2013 - 10:22AM

    When we went back to Pakistan after living in the U.S for quite a while I was very much concerned about the education of my children. But when I took my little girl for admission in kindergarten and met sister Zinnia I was very much satisfied and new that my girl will be getting quality education. St Joseph and the guidance of sister Zinnia molded her and now she graduated from Cornell University and completed her law and she is a corporate lawyer and working for a leading U.S law firm abroad.
    Thank you St Joseph for helping my daughter to be where she is today by the grace of Allah Subhuman Taala..

    Most of my family went to St Joseph since 1950

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  • Fariya Sheikh
    Jun 7, 2013 - 1:15PM

    Sister Zinia you will be remembered by everyone because you were like an angel who inspired everyone. I will never forget you and you will remain in my thoughts and prayers. Rest in peace…

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  • Syeda Shafqat
    Jun 7, 2013 - 5:43PM

    A touching and fitting article that encapsulated so simply and sincerely the great humility and dedication and care of this great woman, Sister Zinia Pinto.

    My first memory is of being terrified and intimidated by her when she interviewed me for admission when I was 4. Later, by the time I was in high school, she engendered great respect in me for her countenance and dedication. As a teacher now, I appreciate her professionalism, pastoral care and vision.

    Rest in peace, Sister. I thank you for your great guidance and care.

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  • Jun 7, 2013 - 7:56PM

    My deep condolences go out for Sr. Zinia Pinto. My relatives and daughter studied at St. Joseph’s. May her sould rest in peace. Charles and Winnie Wilson

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  • Mona Fernandes (Nee Cordeiro)
    Jun 8, 2013 - 12:29AM

    My deepest condolences go out to all the wonderful sisters at ST JOSEPHS.
    Sister Zinias cousin, Yvette Pinto was my class mate and friend.My deepest sympathy
    to you Yvette where ever you are. What a Great Nun your cousin was. I have fond
    memories of her. May her good soul find peace and happiness with our Lord in Heaven.

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  • christine lobo desouza
    Jun 8, 2013 - 8:43AM

    I taught in St. Joseph’s Convent school, my sister Thelma too. We will always be grateful for the education we received there; like my recently deceased brother Bishop Anthony Lobo, Sister Xenia encouraged all to use their talents and push for higher learning; in my teaching career in Toronto, I was always grateful for the encouragement and lessons taught by nuns like Sr. Xenia. may her soul rest in peace.

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  • christine lobo desouza
    Jun 8, 2013 - 8:58AM

    My sister Thelma and I taught under Sr. Xenia in St. Joseph’s convent school; we were students there as well; she was an excellent principal, encouraged staff and students alike, and I have fond memories of my years there. In our teaching careers in Canada and the U.S.A. , we had ample reason to be grateful for all we learned from the nuns like Sr. Xenia. Like my recently deceased brother Bishop Anthony Lobo, Sr. Xenia was all for encouraging education and the country will be the poorer for their passing. may her soul rest in peace.

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  • Celine Borges
    Jun 10, 2013 - 9:32AM

    I was fortunate to meet her in 1997 when I visited my sister Aileen Soares, who has also taught for over 50 years at St Joseph’s. Sister was a role model for restraint, dignity and the pursuit of excellence. She and my mother grew up in same village in Goa We had nothing but total admiration for her.

    May God grant her a special place in his heavenly realm and may her soul rest in peace.
    May God bless and care for all the nuns that have served so many thousands of girls of different faiths and socio-economic backgrounds.

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  • Anne Nguyen
    Jun 12, 2013 - 3:16PM

    My mother Jane, my sister Joan, and I met Sister Zinia in 1978. We were immigrants fleeing Vietnam in search of a home and of a job for my mother. Through God’s blesssing, we were somehow guided to St. Joseph’s Convent School and after having heard my mother’s struggles, Sister Zinia took us under her wing. She gave my mother a job, as her personal assistant, and enrolled my sister and I at St. Joseph’s School. We were also given a home at the Providence Home.
    We will be forever grateful to her for all she has done for us. I was fortunate enough to reunite with Sister Zinia in Dusseldorf in 2000 together with Sister Margaret. We will miss her very much but know that she is smiling on us from above.

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  • Doris DeSouza
    Jun 18, 2013 - 7:06AM

    I have always loved and admired Sr. Zinia Pinto for her thoughtfulness, kindness and most of all for her compassion. We had worked together for almost 25 years untill I migratred to Miami, Florida. She is truely a legend not only in the education system but as well as in the religious sector. I will miss her and will always remember her as my mentor and most of all as my friend. RIP till we meet again! My heartfelt sympathie goes out to all the Sisters at the Convent.

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