Sudan / Italy
Born in Sudan in 1869, Josephine was kidnapped by slave-traders at the age of seven, sold into slavery, and given the name Bakhita which means ‘lucky one’. She was re-sold many times, experiencing the humiliations and sufferings of slavery, both physical and moral. Sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, she was purchased in 1883 by the Italian Consul to Sudan, Callisto Legnani, who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885 and then worked as a nanny for the Consul’s daughter, Mimmina.
Through Mimmina she came in contact with the Canossian Sisters in Venice and was drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the names Giuseppina Margherita and Fortunata. She entered the Institute of the Canossian Daughters of Charity in 1893, and in 1896 took her vows in nearby Verona. There she began fifty years of service as a Canossian sister.
She lived a humble, simple life: praying, cooking, sewing, and welcoming needy visitors with comfort and hope. After her biography published in 1930, she became a sought after speaker, raising funds to support missions.
As she grew older she experienced much sickness. To those who asked how she was, she would respond with a smile: ‘As the Master desires’. She used to pray:
I have given everything to my Master: He will take care of me… The best thing for us is not what we consider best, but what the Lord wants of us!
Josephine died in 1947 and was canonized in by John Paul II in 2000.