An African Saint
Born in what is now known as South Sudan (Darfur), Josephine Bakhita was playing in the fields near her home when she was kidnapped by slave traders. She was nine years old.
When she was first captured, she wouldn’t speak, not even to say her name. And so the traders named her, Bakhita, ‘the lucky one’.
During the next 10 years, Josephine passed through the hands of five different slave owners, until she was purchased in Khartoum by a diplomatic vice-consul for Italy, and given to family friends.
Josephine was finally in a situation of kindness, and at age 20 she was destined to leave Genoa to work as a waitress in her owners’ hotel on the Red Sea. At this time it was suggested that Josephine take instruction in the Catholic faith. In preparation for baptism she stayed for a while in the convent of the Daughters of Charity of Canossa.
From the first moment she entered the convent, Bakhita felt at home. Ten months later when it was time to leave for the Red Sea, Josephine refused.
After protracted church and state negotiations, and slavery having been declared illegal in Italy almost 100 years before, Josephine was freed, baptised, and joined the convent as a nun.
Here, she spent the next 50 years serving God and others. She became a tireless fundraiser up and down the Italian peninsula for the foreign missions.
Josephine Bakhita’s sanctity shone through her life. Young and old were touched by her. At the cathedral in Obeid, Sudan, a painting of Bakhita hangs next to that of the Blessed Mother, the Queen of Africa.