Justice, Peace & the Integrity of Creation

Justice, Peace & the Integrity of Creation

St. Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine BakhitaThe International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking is celebrated  throughout the world,  February 8, 2015,the Feast Day of Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave,  freed,  who became a Canossian nun, and was declared a Saint in 2000. 

Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869 in a small village in the Darfur region of Sudan.  She was 9 years ago and working in the fields with her family when she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and sold into slavery.  Over the next 8 years, she was sold five times.  She was so traumatized by the brutality of her captors, she could not remember her birth name.  Her kidnappers gave her the name "Bakhita" which means "fortunate."  Retrospectively, Bakhita was very fortunate, but the  years of her captivity do not attest to it.  She was tortured by her various owners who branded, beat and cut her.  

She had an awe for the world and its creator.  "Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself:  'Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?'  And, I felt a great desire to see Him, to know Him and to pay Him homage."

After being sold five times, Bakhita was purchased by Callisto Legnani, the Italian consul in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.  Two years later, he took Bakhita to Italy to work as a nanny for a colleague, Augusta Michieli.  He, in turn, sent Bakhita to accompany his daughter to a school in Venice run by the Canossian Sisters.

Bakhita felt called to learn more about the Church, and was baptized with the name Josephine Margaret.  In the meantime, Michieli wanted to take Josephine and his daughter back to Sudan, but Josephine refused to return.  The disagreement escalated and was taken to the Italian courts where it was ruled the Josephine could stay in Italy because she was a free woman.  Josephine remained in Italy and entered the Canossians in 1893.  The next 50 years of her life were spent witnessing to God's love through cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door.  She was known for her smile, gentleness and holiness.  

As she grew older, she experienced long, painful years of sickness, but she continued to persevere  in hope.  During her last days she relived the painful days of her slavery and more than once begged:  "Please loosen the chains ... they are heavy." She died February 8, 1947.

From Slave to Saint -
Bakhita declared Venerabilis on December 1, 1978.
Bakhita beatifed on May 17, 1992.  February 8 was declared her official day of worship.
Bakhita canonized on October 1, 2000.

In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation.  The history of her life inspires, not passive acceptance, but the firm resolve to work effectively to fee girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.  (Pope John Paul II, homily at her canonization)

Sources:  
www.traconline.org.uk
The Vatican
The Catholic News Agency

 
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