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St. Josephine Bakhita

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Sister Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947) was beatified on 17 May 1992 and her feast day is 8 February, which is also the day of her death. She also became the first Sudan native to be cannonized, when she was so honored in 2000. Her story is poignant to human trafficking as she herself was a slave. But also interesting is how the story turned out, how the slave owner feigned affection, and how she finally became free. I love her quote at the end of the excerpt.

The following is an excerpt from “All Saints, Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time”, by Robert Elsberg, a very good book, I will add.

“Bakhita, (“the fortunate one”) was born in a village in the southern Sudan in 1869. When she was nine she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Transferred from one master to another over a period of years, she experienced brutality in many forms. A turning point came in 1883 when she was sold to an Italian family who treated her with relative kindness and brought her back to Italy to work as a maid and nursemaid… It was there that Bakhita first heard the gospel and divined that it was God’s will that she be free…

“When… Bakhita’s mistress announced that they were returning to Sudan, Bakhita expressed her intention to remain. The Signora professed to be hurt. Hadn’t the always treated her as a member of the family? How coud she now be so ungrateful? As difficult as it was to resist these entreaties, Bakhita reained firm in her resolution: “I am sure the Lord gave me strength at that moment,” she later wrote, “because he wanted me for himself alone.”

“When pleading did not work the Signora tried another tack: she sued in court for the return of her “property.” But the superior of the Canossian Sisters and the cardinal of Venice intervened and came to her defense. It was only thus that Bakhita discovered what no one had bothered to inform her, namely, that slaver was illegal in Italy. She had been free all along.

“She was accepted into the novitiate of the congregation that had sheltered her and in 1896 she made her religious vows… It was said that she had a gift for making the ordinary extraordinary.

“In her last years she became ill [she lived to be 78] and could not leave her wheelchair. When a visiting bishop asked her what she did all day in her wheelchair, she replied, “What do I do? Exactly what you are doing – the will of God.”

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5 thoughts on “St. Josephine Bakhita

  1. She was physically free from slavery in Italy but no one told her. People are free from slavery to sin today, but so many don’t know it or don’t believe it.

  2. Katherine, You presented an intersting synopsis of Bakhita. I would like to read more about her and others like her in Elsberg’s book.

  3. What a beautiful story about Bakhita Katherine. I like you, loved the last line as well. It sure spoke to my heart!

  4. Thank you for sharing this story, Katherine. Thinking of you in your travels.

  5. Lovely story, Katherine. Thinking of you and China…

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