Thursday, 8 February 2007

St Josephine Bakhita

Born in 1868 in Dafur to a wealthy Sudanese family, she was kidnapped by slave-traders at the age of 7 and given the name Bakhita (meaning the lucky one or fortunate) by them. The appalling treatment she experienced as a slave caused her to forget her original name. Sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, she was finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, the Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy, and grew to love the country.

An adult convert, joining the Church in 1890, she entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice in 1893, taking her vows in 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 in 1930, she became a noted and sought after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She died of natural causes on this day in 1947, was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and canonised by him on 1 October 2000. She is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

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