Wednesday of this week was the memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who was canonized on October 1, 2000, by Pope John Paul II. There were four canonized that day in Rome, including Saint Katherine Drexel of Philadelphia. I had the honor of being present that afternoon, having been on a trip to Rome, and shared in this moving moment within the Church. Thus Josephine Bakhita finds a special place in my thoughts today. EWTN has a great two part program of her story which I recommend to your viewing.
Her story, in short, began in 1869 in Sudan where she was raised in the Islamic faith. She was kidnapped at the age of seven by slave traders and sold numerous times in human trafficking until the age of twelve, when she was purchased by the Italian Consul in the Sudan and brought to Italy, where she served as a nanny. She lived with a group of women Religious, where she encountered the faith, was baptized, and was eventually granted her freedom. She joined the Canossian Sisters and for twenty five years served as cook, seamstress and porter, sharing her joy and her music with the children that they served. She died the year I was born, in 1947, after a long and painful illness, and was recognized for her holiness and joy.
In our day, when human trafficking and slavery, especially of the young in many places around the world is so prevalent, her feast is a day set aside to advocate for an end to such a barbaric practice and for legal dignity and protection for all. The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking is set on February 8th each year. Pope Francis pointed out that this day falls on her feast, and said "this enslaved, exploited and humiliated girl in Africa never lost her hope, but persevered in her faith and ended up as a migrant in Europe where she heard the call of the Lord and became a nun. Let's pray to Saint Josephine Bakhita for all migrants and refugees who are exploited and suffer so much."