St. Josephine Bakhita



St. Josephine Bakhita (1868–1947), was born in the Darfur region of Sudan. She recalled her early childhood as happy, but between the ages of seven and nine, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. Because of the trauma, she forgot her own name, and was called Bahkita, which means “lucky” in Arabic. She suffered beatings at the hands of cruel owners, and was branded as a slave by having salt poured into wounds cut by one of her mistresses.
In 1883, Bahkita was bought by the Italian Vice Counsul, Callisto Legnani, at Khartoum. For the first time since her capture, she was treated kindly, and when Legnani was recalled to Italy, she begged to be taken along. Once in Italy, she was given as a gift to the Michieli family, where she served as nanny and returned to Sudan for a time. When the Michieli family decided to sell their Italian estate and remain there, Josephine was sent to live with the Canossian Sisters until all was settled, but when the Signora Michieli came retrieve her, Bahkita refused to leave. Italian law did not recognize slavery, and she was free for the first time to set her own course.
She decided to remain with the sisters, was baptized in 1890 with the name Josephine, and entered the novitiate of the Canossian Sisters in 1893. She was assigned as doorkeeper of the convent and became well-known and loved in the local area for her holiness. Josephine Bahkita died in 1947 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. She is the patron saint of Sudan.
Today, her feast day is marked by prayer for an end to the human trafficking that continues to this day, a modern day form of slavery that is so destructive of human dignity and worth.
“I urge everyone, citizens and institutions, to join forces to prevent human trafficking and guarantee protection and help for victims. Let us pray that the Lord touches trafficker’s hearts. What an ugly word, human traffickers! May He give hope of recovering freedom to those who suffer this terrible harm.” (2018-02-07)

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