Saint Josephine Bakhita – Tenth Annual International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking


On 8 February, the Church remembers Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese woman who spent twelve years of her life as a slave.  She is a patron for the people of Sudan and South Sudan, and the patron of all those who work today against the scourge of human trafficking around the world.  Her story reminds us of the suffering taking place around the world, and especially the suffering of the people of South Sudan, as well as the suffering of women and girls who have been victims of human trafficking.  Her story reminds us of the intrinsic dignity and worth of each person, created in the image and likeness of God, and of the fact that, with God’s help and the help of those who recognize the image of God in the dispossessed, justice and freedom is possible.  Solidarity with South Sudan remembers Saint Josephine Bakhita today, and invokes her intercession for the suffering people of South Sudan.

The theme of the day this year is “Journeying in Dignity. Listen. Dream. Act”.  Learn more HERE

Solidarity with South Sudan invites all of our friends and supporters to participate in the Online Pilgrimage of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking on 8 February.  The pilgrimage is taking place across all continents and time zones and begins at 9:30 am in Oceania, followed by Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, South America, and finally concludes at 4:30 pm in North America.   To participate, click on this Youtube link

For those who have time and interest, what follows below is the inspiring story of Saint Josephine Bakhita, as related on the Vatican website and in “Catholic Online”: HERE.


Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in the village of Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was a member of the Daju people and her uncle was a tribal chief. Due to her family lineage, she grew up happy and relatively prosperous, saying that, as a child, she did not know suffering.

Historians believe that sometime in February 1877, Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. Although she was just a child, she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles to a slave market in El Obeid. She was bought and sold at least twice during the grueling journey.  For the next 12 years she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times. She spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her original name.

In 1883, a Turkish general sold her to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani.  When it was time for him to return to Italy, she begged to be taken with him, and he agreed.  After a long and dangerous journey across Sudan, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean, they arrived in Italy. She was given away to another family as a gift and she served them as a nanny.  Her new family also had dealings in Sudan had when her mistress decided to travel to Sudan without Josephine, she placed her in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice.

While she was in the custody of the Sisters, she came to learn about God. According to Josephine, she had always known about God, who created all things, but she did not know who He was. The Sisters answered her questions. She was deeply moved by her time with the Sisters and discerned a call to follow Christ.  When her mistress returned from Sudan, Josephine refused to leave. Her mistress spent three days trying to persuade her to leave the Sisters, but Josephine remained steadfast. This caused the superior of the institute for baptismal candidates among the Sisters to complain to Italian authorities on Josephine’s behalf.  The case went to court, and the court found that slavery had been outlawed in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made slave. She was declared free.  For the first time in her life, Josephine was free and could choose what to do with her life. She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret. The Archbishop who gave her the sacraments was none other than Giusseppe Sarto, the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, who would later become Pope Pius X.

Josephine became a novice with the Canossian Daughters of Charity on December 7, 1893, and took her final vows on December 8, 1896. She was eventually assigned to a convent in Schio, Vicenza.  For the next 42 years of her life, she worked as a cook and a doorkeeper at the convent. She also traveled and visited other convents telling her story to other sisters and preparing them for work in Africa.

She was known for her gentle voice and smile. She was gentle and charismatic, and was often referred to lovingly as the “little brown sister” or honorably as the “black mother.”  When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers. For had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church.  She died on the evening of 8 February 1947.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII. On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable. Pope John Paul II canonized her on October 1, 2000.

Date Published:

8 Feb 2024


Fr. David, Mission promoter


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Latest news, Saint Josephine Bakhita, Human trafficking, Slavery, Solidarity, South Sudan

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