No one knows what name St. Josephine Bakhita's parents gave to her at birth. Born in the Darfur region of Sudan in 1868, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of 7 and sold into slavery, and the horrific trauma of her early life caused her to forget the name given by her parents. Her kidnappers, in a twist of cruel dramatic irony gave her the name "Bakhita" which means "fortunate."
Young Bakhita was sold and resold many times, a humiliating and frightening experience. Finally, in 1883 at the age of 15, she was sold to Callisto Legnani, the Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan. Two years later, Legnani gave her to a friend, Augusto Michieli to be the babysitter of his daughter, Mimmina Michieli in Venice. Slave and mistress became close friends, and Bakhita even studied alongside Mimmina at Venice's Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. During this time, Bakhita felt drawn to the Catholic faith. In 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and took the name Josephine. I wonder if Joseph's ascent from slavery inspired the choice of her Christian name.
When the Michielis returned to Africa, Josephine refused to return with them. The matter was taken to court, and it was eventually decided that, since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been freed since 1885, when she first arrived in Italy. And so, Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893 and made her profession three years later. In 1902, she was transferred to the city of Schio. She assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and hospitality to visitors. This remarkable woman of faith died in 1947 and was cannonized in 1992.
"Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!"