February 8, Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita
A day of prayer for an end to human trafficking around the world.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita who was born in Darfur, Sudan in 1869 and ripped from her loving family at the age of 7 or 9 years old when she was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and given the name Bakhita. After being sold several times and enduring such brutal treatment that she could no longer remember her true name, she ended up in Venice taking care of an Italian family’s child. When the family had to take care of some business back in Africa, they left Bakhita and their daughter with the Canossian Sisters of Charity. Bakhita would say later that the moment she walked through the Sister’s doors she felt she had returned home.
When the Italian family returned for Bakhita and their daughter, Bakhita refused to go with them. Despite the family’s protestations, it was determined that Bakhita was a free woman according to Italian law and they could not force her to accompany them. She was baptized Josephine in 1890 and became a Canossian Sister in 1896. After 50 years of ministry she died on February 8, 1947 at a Canossian Convent surrounded by her fellow Sisters.
In 2000, she was canonized by Pope John Paul II who declared: “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.” Her feast day is recognized as a day of prayer for an end to human trafficking around the world.
In honour of Sr. Josephine Bakhita, we invite you to pray with us today:
O God, you always hear the cry of your people
and have compassion for the oppressed and the enslaved.
May they experience the liberation of the cross
and the resurrection of Jesus.
We pray to you for those suffering
the torment of human trafficking.
Transform us by the power of your Spirit,
to be sensitive to the pain of these, our sisters and brothers.
Committed to overcoming this evil,
give us the courage to stand up and work for the rights
of our sisters and brothers
who live in slavery and exploitation.
We ask this with the intercession of St. Josephine
in Christ our Lord. AMEN!
— Prayer by Peter McKenna, SCJ