St. Josephine Bakhita was born in southern Sudan in 1869. As a young girl, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Sold and resold in the markets of El Obeid and Karthoum, she was subjected to brutal treatment from her captors. She did not remember the name given to her by her parents. Rather, Bakhita, meaning “fortunate one,” is the name she was given by her captors.
In 1883, she was bought by an Italian diplomat who sent her to Italy to work as a maid for the daughter of a family friend who was studying with the Canossain Daughters of Charity. It was there that Bakhita came to know about God whom “she had experienced in her heart without knowing.” In 1890, she was baptized and received the name Josephine.
Years later, the Italian family came to take their “property” back to Africa, but Josephine expressed her desire to stay. When the family insisted she go, she remained firm, later writing “I am sure the Lord gave me strength at that moment.” With the support of the Superioress of the Canossian Sisters and the Cardinal of Venice, she won her freedom and, later, entered the novitiate. For the next 50 years, Josephine lived a life of prayer and service as a Canossian Sister before her death in 1947.
St. Josephine was canonized in 2000 and her feast day is now February 8. She is now the patron of Sudan.
St. Josephine Bakhita once said, “If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and religious today…”
St. Josephine, provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. Click here to learn more about modern day slavery.
Written by Sister Michelle Loisel, D.C.