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St. Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine Bakhita by Julie Lonneman

Artist Narrative:

Born in Olgossa in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means fortunate. She was re-sold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan. Two years later he took Josephine to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice's Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While Mimmina was being instructed, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine.

When the Michielis returned from Africa and wanted to take Mimmina and Josephine back with them, the future saint refused to go. During the ensuing court case, the Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on Josephine's behalf. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885.

Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893 and made her profession three years later. In 1902, she was transferred to the city of Schio (northeast of Verona), where she assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. She soon became well loved by the children attending the sisters' school and the local citizens. She once said, "Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!"
—Saint Anthony Messenger Press

Sudan/Italy, 1868-1947.

Her feast day is February 8.

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Josephine was born to a wealthy Sudanese family, she was kidnapped by slave-traders at age 9, and given the name Bakhita by them. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as a nanny. She was treated well in Italy, and grew to love the country. She was an adult convert, joining the Church on 9 January 1890. She took the name of Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy in 1893, taking her vows on 8 December 1896 in Verona, and serving as a Canossian Sister for the next fifty years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

Born: 1868 at Oglassa, Darfur, Sudan

Died: February 8, 1947 of natural causes in Italy

Beatified: May 17, 1992 by Saint John Paul II

Canonized: October 1, 2000 by Saint John Paul II at Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy; thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan

Readings:

O God, Father of mercy, you have given us Blessed Josephine Bakhita as a "universal sister", an evangelical model of humble faith and ardent charity. Grant also to us the will to believe and to love in the spirit of the gospel, and listen favorably to the prayers of those who ask for intercession. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
—prayer for the canonization of Saint Josephine

O Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we thank you for the gifts of humility and charity which you bestowed on Saint Josephine Bakhita Deign to glorify her for her singular virtues and grant the prayers of those who invoke her, Amen
—prayer for the virtues of Saint Josephine

Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself, 'Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?' I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage.

I have given everything to my Master: He will take care of me… The best thing for us is not what we consider best, but what the Lord wants of us!

I received the Sacrament of Baptism with such joy that only angels could describe…

O Lord, if I could fly to my people and tell them of your Goodness at the top of my voice: oh, how many souls would be won!

If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today…

The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone… we must be compassionate!

Mary protected me even before I knew her!

When a person loves another dearly, he desires strongly to be close to the other: therefore, why be afraid to die? Death brings us to God!
—assorted quotes by Saint Josephine Bakhita

One day I unwittingly made a mistake that incensed the master's son. He became furious, snatched me violently from my hiding place, and began to strike me ferociously with the lash and his feet. Finally he left me half dead, completely unconscious. Some slaves carried me away and lay me on a straw mat, where I remained for over a month.

A woman skilled in this cruel art [tattooing] came to the general's house...our mistress stood behind us, whip in hand. The woman had a dish of white flour, a dish of salt and a razor... When she had made her patterns; the woman took the razor and made incisions along the lines. Salt was poured into each of the wounds... My face was spared, but 6 patterns were designed on my breasts, and 60 more on my belly and arms. I thought I would die, especially when salt was poured in the wounds...it was by a miracle of God I didn't die. He had destined me for better things.
—Saint Josephine Bakhita, describing some miseries during her time as a slave