Tomorrow, we celebrate the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. She was born in Darfur, Sudan in 1869 and ripped away from her loving family between the age of 7 and 9. She was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and given the name “Bakhita.” After being sold several times and enduring such brutal treatment that she couldn’t even remember her own name, she ended up in Venice, taking care of an Italian family’s child. When the family left for business in Africa, they left Bakhita and the child with the Canossian Sisters of Charity. Bakhita would later say that the moment she walked through the Sisters’ doors, she felt as though she had returned home.
When the Italian family returned for Bakhita and their daughter, Bakhita refused to go with them. Despite the family’s protestations, it was determined that Bakhita was a free woman according to Italian law. They could not force her to accompany them. She was baptized Josephine in 1890 and became a Canossian Sister in 1896. After 50 years of ministry, she died on February 8, 1947 at a Canossian convent, surrounded by her sisters.
In 2000, she was canonized by Pope John Paul II who declared: “The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance, but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.” Her feast day is recognized as a day of prayer for an end to human trafficking around the world.
In honor of St. Josephine Bakhita, I invite you to pray with us today:
O God, you always hear the cry of your people
and have compassion for the oppressed and the enslaved.
May they experience the liberation of the cross
and the resurrection of Jesus.
We pray to You for those suffering
the torment of human trafficking.
Transform us by the power of Your Spirit,
to be sensitive to the pain of these, our sisters and brothers.
Committed to overcoming this evil,
give us the courage to stand up and work for the rights
of our sisters and brothers
who live in slavery and exploitation.
We ask this with the intercession of St. Josephine
in Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Prayer by Peter McKenna, SCJ]