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Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine BakhitaFebruary 8 is the feast day of a recently canonized saint with an inspiring story for Black History Month: St. Josephine Bakhita (c. 1869-1947). She was born in Sudan and sold into slavery as a child, after being kidnapped. After terrible suffering, including being tortured and permanently scarred by cruel men, she was purchased by the Italian consul in Khartoum, who took her back to Italy in 1885 and gave her to a friend. She began accompanying a girl in her charge to a school in Venice, run by the Canossian Sisters. Responding to a call to conversion, she was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic, taking the name of Giuseppina.

When her owners tried to take her back to Africa, Josephine Bakhita refused to go. The Canossian nuns and the Patriarch of Venice himself came to her help, and a judge declared that Josephine had been free since she set foot on Italian soil. Further discovering a religious vocation, Josephine made her profession as a Canossian sister, living first in the community in Venice and then moving to another house near Vicenza, where she was known as Mother Josephine or simply "la nostra madre moretta." After a long illness, Mother Josephine died at the convent of Schio on February 8, 1947.

Pope John Paul II beatified Josephine Bakhita in 1992 and canonized her in 2000. The pope said that Mother Josephine left us "a message of reconciliation and evangelic forgiveness in a world so much divided and hurt by hatred and violence. She, who was the victim of the worst injuries of all times, namely slavery, herself declared: 'If I was to meet those slave raiders who abducted me and those who tortured me, I'd kneel down to them to kiss their hands, because, if it had not been for them, I would not have become a Christian and religious woman'." She is the first Sudanese to be named a saint and the first saint from Africa since the early centuries of Christianity. She is invoked as the patroness of the enslaved and of the country of Sudan. Sadly, as far as I can tell, her memoir (Storia Meravigliosa, co-authored with Ida Zanolini, from 1931) has not yet been translated into English.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I believe that you can find her memoir printed here: Zanini, Roberto Italo, "Bakhita: From Slave to Saint," ISBN 978-1-58617-689-1, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2013.