St. Josephine Bakhita: Patron Saint of Swahili Community


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The Swahili African Catholic Community is under the patronage of St. Josephine Bakhita (c. 1868-February 8, 1947). It is appropriate for the young community, such as ours to have this nun as its patron, due to the fact that, she is venerated as a modern African saint. This is a time of global migration, with a sad reality of human trafficking and the sufferings encountered by immigrants in host countries. St. Josephine Bakhita is a symbol against the brutal history of slavery. Just as the life of this Sudanese saintly woman was transformed in Europe after her conversion to Christianity, an African Catholic Community in diaspora can expect her to be a suitable intercessor before the Lord. A choice of this saint is a product of a genuine reflection. The experience of Josephine who was subjected to forced migration resembles many African immigrants in Europe. They confront socio-cultural and political realities daily such as enduring institutional racism, random police checks and harassment, brutality and surveillance. Therefore many undergo physical stress, emotional crisis and psychological trauma.
 Josephine Bakhita was a Sudanese-born slave who became a Roman Catholic canossian nun in Italy, living and working there for 45 years. On 9th January 1890 Bakhita was baptized with the name “Josephine Margarita Fortunada,” receiving communion for the first time from the cardinal Patriach of Venice himself. In 1893 she entered the noviciate of the Canossian Sisters. On 8 December 1896 she took her vows, welcomed by the future Pope Pius X. In 1902 she was assigned to a house in Schio in the northern Italian province of Vicenza, where she spent the rest of her life.
St. Josephine Bakhita was remarkable for her gentleness, calming voice, and ever present smile. She had a special charisma and reputation for sanctity. Her last years were marked by pain and sickness, as she was confined to a wheelchair, but she retained her cheerfulness, and if asked how she was, would always smile and answer “as the master desires.”
Pope John Paul II declared Josephine as Blessed on May 17, 1992, thus a stage was set towards her canonization. On October 1, 2000, she was canonized and became Saint Josephine Bakhita. February 8 was given as her feast day. Her legacy is the transformation that is possible through suffering.  Her story of deliverance from physical slavery also symbolizes all those who find meaning and inspiration in her life for their own deliverance from spiritual slavery. Pope Benedict XVI on 30 November 2007 in the beginning of his second encyclical letter Spe Salvi (In Hope We Were Saved) relates her entire life story extensively as an outstanding example of the Christian hope