St. Josephine Bakhita (c. 1870-1947)

Artist: 
Julie Lonneman

Artist's Narrative:
“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.”
—Saint Josephine Bakhita, remembering her feelings of awe at the beauty of creation as a child.

Josephine Bakhita was the daughter of a herding family in the Darfur district of Sudan. When barely seven years old, Bakhita was kidnapped into slavery by Arab raiders. She was sold and resold five times, and endured much brutality, including severe beatings and extensive scarification. Her final owner was an Italian diplomat who brought her to Italy where she became nanny to a friend’s daughter. She received a Catholic education while accompanying her charge to school, and in 1890 she was baptized, taking the name Josephine Margaret. Eventually she was freed by the ruling of an Italian judge. In charge of her own destiny for the first time, Josephine chose to enter the novitiate of the Canossian Daughters of Charity. She served the community as doorkeeper for the rest of her life, becoming well-known for her gentle smile and calm voice. In the delirium of her last illness she would cry out "Please, loosen the chains ... they are so heavy," reliving the trauma of her childhood.

In honoring St. Josephine Bakhita, let us not forget that children are still kidnapped and sold into slavery in Sudan and in other parts of the world. Let us intercede for the wellbeing and freedom of all who are robbed of dignity and self-determination by the widespread contemporary practice of slavery.

Her feast day is February 8.

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