February 8: Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita
Josephine was born in 1869 in the Darfur region of western Sudan. She lived a carefree, happy life with her family. At nine years of age, she was kidnapped by the region’s slave traders and sold as a slave several times.
Although she was given the name “Bakhita,” which means “fortunate,” she was very cruelly treated by different masters until 1883 when she was sold to Italian Vice Consul Callisto Legnani and his family.
In Italy, the Legnani family left Bakhita with their daughter in the care of the Canossian Sisters of Charity while they travelled abroad. When they returned to pick the girls up, Bakhita (now baptized Josephine) refused to go with them. Supported by the Canossian Sisters and the patriarch of Venice, she won a court case that decreed slavery was illegal in Italy. She had been free from the moment she arrived there.
As a free woman, Josephine entered the Canossian Sisters community where she lived and worked for 50 years. There, she was known for her gentleness and compassion for those who were poor and suffering.
Josephine died in 1947 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. She was a model of someone who, in spite of her sufferings, lived an extraordinary life of compassionate goodness, forgiveness and faithfulness. Josephine Bakhita is the first Patron Saint of Sudan.
Although illegal, the buying and selling of people continues to take place around the world today through a term known as "human trafficking." Vulnerable men, women and children are deceived or taken against their will, bought, sold and exploited for forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced crime, domestic servitude, forced marriage or the sale of organs.
Let us mark the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita by increasing our awareness of this crime and by putting our faith into action, doing what we can to end it. And let us pray for an end to this modern day trade in human beings, praying for both victims and perpetrators. You can learn more about GIFT Box, a Toronto public education campaign to end human trafficking, by clicking here.
Beloved and merciful God of Love, we pray for the safety, release, and healing of all victims of human trafficking. May all those involved in this injustice and violence be awakened to the evil of this way of life, and make resititution to the victims as far as possible. Also we pray for a renewed sense of justice and love in our own personal relationships and responsibility towards those vulnerable persons whom we encounter daily. Amen.
By Sister Mary Fatta
(Sources: Living With Christ, Feb. 2016, and Google site, Jan. 2016)