JOSEPHINE BAKHITA (1869-1947)
Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869 and died in Schio (Vicenza)
African flower, who knew the anguish of kidnapping and slavery, bloomed
marvelously in Italy, in response to God's grace, with the Daughters of Charity.
Schio (Vicenza), where she spent many years of her life, everyone still calls
her “our Black Mother”. The process for the cause of Canonization began 12
years after her death and on December 1st, 1978 the Church proclaimed the Decree
of the heroic practice ofall virtues.
Providence which “cares for the flowers of the fields and the birds of the
air”, guided the Sudanese slave through innumerable and unspeakable sufferings
to human freedom and to the freedom of faith and finally to the consecration of
her whole life to God for the coming of his Kingdom.
was not the name she received from her parents at birth. The fright and the
terrible experiences she went through made her forget the name she was given by
her parents. Bakhita, which means “fortunate”, was the name given to her by
and resold in the markets of El Obeid and of Khartoum, she experienced the
humiliations and sufferings of slavery, both physical and moral.
the Capital of Sudan, Bakhita was bought by an Italian Consul, Callisto Legnani
. For the first time since the day she was kidnapped, she realized with pleasant
surprise, that no one used the lash when giving her orders; instead, she was
treated in a loving and cordial way. In the Consul's residence, Bakhita
experienced peace, warmth and moments of joy, even though veiled by nostalgia
for her own family, whom, perhaps, she had lost forever.
situations forced the Consul to leave for Italy. Bakhita asked and obtained
permission to go with him and with a friend of his, a certain Mr. Augusto
arrival in Genoa, Mr. Legnani, pressured by the request of Mr. Michieli's wife,
consented to leave Bakhita with them. She followed the new “family”, which
settled in Zianigo (near Mirano Veneto). When their daughter Mimmina was born,
Bakhita became her babysitter and friend.
acquisition and management of a big hotel in Suakin, on the Red Sea, forced Mrs.
Michieli to move to Suakin to help her husband. Meanwhile, on the advice of
their administrator, Illuminato Checchini, Mimmina and Bakhita were entrusted to
the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of the Catechumens in Venice. It was
there that Bakhita came to know about God whom “she had experienced in her
heart without knowing who He was” ever since she was a child. “Seeing the
sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself: Who could be the Master of these
beautiful things? And I felt a great desire to see him, to know Him and to pay
several months in the catechumenate, Bakhita received the sacraments of
Christian initiation and was given the new name, Josephine. It was January 9,
1890. She did not know how to express her joy that day. Her big and expressive
eyes sparkled, revealing deep emotions. From then on, she was often seen kissing
the baptismal font and saying: “Here, I became a daughter of God!”
each new day, she became more aware of who this God was, whom she now knew and
loved, who had led her to Him through mysterious ways, holding her by the hand.
Mrs. Michieli returned from Africa to take back her daughter and Bakhita, the
latter, with unusual firmness and courage, expressed her desire to remain with
the Canossian Sisters and to serve that God who had shown her so many proofs of
young African, who by then had come of age, enjoyed the freedom of choice which
the Italian law ensured.
of St. Magdalene
remained in the catechumenate where she experienced the call to be a religious,
and to give herself to the Lord in the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa.
December 8, 1896 Josephine Bakhita was consecrated forever to God whom she
called with the sweet expression “the Master!”
another 50 years, this humble Daughter of Charity, a true witness of the love of
God, lived in the community in Schio, engaged in various services: cooking,
sewing, embroidery and attending to the door.
she was on duty at the door, she would gently lay her hands on the heads of the
children who daily attended the Canossian schools and caress them. Her amiable
voice, which had the inflection and rhythm of the music of her country, was
pleasing to the little ones, comforting to the poor and suffering and
encouraging for those who knocked at the door of the Institute.
humility, her simplicity and her constant smile won the hearts of all the
citizens. Her sisters in the community esteemed her for her inalterable sweet
nature, her exquisite goodness and her deep desire to make the Lord known.
good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it
is to know God!”
she grew older she experienced long, painful years of sickness. Mother Bakhita
continued to witness to faith, goodness and Christian hope. To those who visited
her and asked how she was, she would respond with a smile: “As the Master
her agony, she re-lived the terrible days of her slavery and more then once she
begged the nurse who assisted her: “Please, loosen the chains... they are
was Mary Most Holy who freed her from all pain. Her last words were: “Our
Lady! Our Lady!”, and her final smile testifiedto her encounter with the
Mother of the Lord.
Mother Bakhita breathed her last on February 8, 1947 at the Canossian Convent, Schio, surrounded by the Sisters. A crowd quickly gathered at the Convent to have a last look at their «Mother Moretta» and to ask for her protection from heaven. The fame of her sanctity has spread to all the continents and many are those who receive graces through her intercession.