In 1880, when she was nine years old, Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped from her home in Darfur, Sudan. For the next dozen years she was bought and sold many different times, suffering abuse and torture. The trauma was so deep that she could not remember her name and so she was renamed Bakhita. An Italian official purchased her and she became caretaker for his family. Some years later, she was taken to the convent of the Canossian Sisters in Venice while the family who had enslaved her were traveling. There, she learned about God, telling the sisters,
“Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself, “Who could be the master of these beautiful things?”
She became Catholic and was given the name Josephine. In 1896, she became a sister and for the next 50 years she cooked, made clothes and cared for the poor. Josephine died in 1947 and was named a saint in 2000. She has been called the patron saint of Sudan and the patron of human trafficking victims, having suffered that same fate herself.
This prayer from the Maryknoll Sisters fits her legacy well:
May St. Josephine Bakhita,
patron saint of those who have been trafficked,
inspire our efforts to put an end to this modern-day slavery.
May God, the giver of life,
strengthen and guide our efforts
to restore freedom and dignity to all.