Saint Josephine, Bakhita, c. 1868-1947

Feast day February 8

Saints Stories for All Ages
“It is an act of justice for the rich to help the poor.”

Saint Josephine, affectionately known as Bakhita (“fortunate one”), was born in the southern Sudan region of Darfur. She was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery, eventually working in Italy as a nanny for a wealthy family. It was during this time that she was introduced to formal religion and came to know the Daughters of Charity of Canossa, or the Canossian Sisters. Bakhita was drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized in 1890 and given the name Josephine. Six years later she entered the Canossian Sisters convent in Schio, Italy.

At her canonization ceremony on October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul II said of St. Josephine: “In today’s world, countless women continue to be victimized, even in developed modern societies. In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.”

Bakhita knew the reality of being a slave, an immigrant, and a spiritual seeker. Even while she was outwardly denied freedom and human dignity, her spirit was free. It was that freedom of spirit that allowed her to follow her heart and live her true vocation.

Spend some time reflecting on areas of your life where you are not free. What is it that enslaves you? How might God be calling you to greater freedom in this area?

Next Steps

  • Learn more about the people of Sudan and the ongoing conflict in their country.
  • Who are the immigrants in your local community? Learn about their countries of origin, customs, and current needs. Find out where they obtain services in your community, and volunteer to help.
  • Which services in your area address the needs of women and children in poverty? How can you, your family, or an organization you belong to reach out in solidarity?

Image credit: Saint Josephine Bakhita by unknown artist, unknown date. Public Domain via Wikimedia.