In 1877, Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. And over the next 12 years, she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times.
Her experiences as a slave varied from fair treatment to cruel.
She was a maid for her first owner. After offending her owner’s son, she was severely beaten and sold.
She then had a Turkish general for an owner. His wife and mother-in-law beat her daily. She suffered 114 scars from this abuse.
In 1883, the Turkish general sold her to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani. He was a kind master. When he returned to Italy, she begged him to take her and he agreed.
While there, she served another family as a nanny.
When her new mistress went on a trip, Josephine was placed in custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice.
She was deeply moved by her time there and discerned a call to follow Christ.
When her mistress returned, Josephine refused to leave. The superior of the institute for baptismal candidates complained to Italian authorities on Josephine’s behalf.
The case went to court, and they found that slavery was outlawed in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made a slave. Josephine was declared free.
She was baptized in 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata.
Josephine became a novice with the Canossian Daughters of Charity religious order in 1893 and took her final vows in 1896.
She was gentle and charismatic, and often referred to lovingly as “little brown sister” or honorably as “black mother.”
On February 8, 1947, Josephine spoke her last words, “Our Lady, Our Lady!” Her body lay on display for three days after her death.
St. Josephine Bakhita was beatified in 1992 and canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
She is the patron saint of Sudan and her feast day is celebrated on February 8.
To learn more about St. Josephine Bakhita: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=5601