Who is St. Josephine Bakhita?
St. Josephine Bakhita was born in southern Sudan in 1869. As a young girl, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. She did not remember the name she was given by her parents. Bakhita, which means “fortunate one,” was the name given to her by her kidnappers. In 1883, she was bought by an Italian diplomat to work as a maid for the daughter of a family friend studying in Italy with the Canossian Daughters of Charity. It was there that Bakhita came to know about God whom “she had experienced in her heart without knowing” who God was. In 1890, she was baptized and received the name Josephine.
When the Italian family came to take their “property” back to Africa, 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 support of the superior of the Canossian Sisters and the Cardinal of Venice, Josephine won her freedom and later entered the novitiate. For the next 50 years she lived a life of prayer and service as a Canossian Sister until her death in 1947.
St. Josephine was canonized in 2000. In his homily at her canonization, Pope John Paul II said, “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 free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.”
On February 8, 2015, the International Day of Prayer to raise awareness about the crime of human trafficking, we ask you to reflect on the experiences of women, children and men who have suffered this affront to human dignity, and join us in praying for their comfort and strength.
Learn more about the Sisters of the Divine Savior’s mission to stop human trafficking and how you can make a difference by supporting us.