Share this story

 | By Michelle Sessions DiFranco

Honoring a Holy Woman Who Suffered Greatly

February 7, 2023 | The Whole of My Life Has Been God's Gift 

If I was to meet those slave raiders that abducted me and those who tortured me, I'd kneel down to them to kiss their hands, because, if it had not have been for them, I would not have become a Christian and religious woman.”  -St. Josephine Bakhita

Imagine being a child living a happy and comfortable life until one day, being terrifyingly kidnapped and sold into slavery.

This is the story of an African woman who, after years of horrible treatment, would profess that she would never have come to know Jesus and enter his Church had she not been kidnapped.

St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in the Darfur region of Sudan. As a young child, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and forced to walk hundreds of miles to a slave market to be sold.

Eventually, Josephine was sold to an Italian consul who took her to Italy. There, she made her way to a school run by the Canossian Sisters, which is an international missionary congregation. Josephine felt drawn to Christ and wanted to learn more about the Catholic Church. Eventually, in 1890, she was able to celebrate the sacraments of Christian initiation, and six years later joined the religious sisters of the Daughters of Charity of Canossa.

For the next 42 years, she was a cook and doorkeeper at her convent. Her missionary spirit drove her to travel to other convents to share her story and to prepare other sisters for work in Africa. The local people loved her gentle, holy ways and felt safe in her presence. Josephine was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. She is the first person to be canonized from Sudan, and is the patron saint of the country. Her feast day is celebrated on Feb. 8.

May we focus our prayers to St. Josephine Bakhita in the month of February and ask for her intercession for the protection of all people threatened by slavery and human trafficking.